The other morning, just as the sun was rising, I went for a walk in the park by my house. I sat on a bench, listened to the sounds of the dawning day, and watched a robin shake off after a bath in a mud puddle.
It was a great morning.
A journey of self-discovery
This week I delved in and began the process of actually rewriting my WIP. I must say that it did not go as smoothly as I’d hoped. I am struggling with Anna’s new role. She is less solitary in this version, more of a team player and a bit warmer, with a sarcastic wit that would have never worked originally because her entire life was molded around the desire for revenge. That is an element of this story that no longer rests on her shoulders, but on those of another. As such, it is important that the opening scene convey this change in personality. The reader needs to understand the deep mutual respect and, dare I say, love, that she and her team share. It is proving difficult because I am having trouble completely letting go of the idea of Anna that I have long held to.
I have written the scene from beginning to earth shattering kaboom, but because of the personality issue, I do not have the tone quite right. I feel that because this is the opening, it is important for me to get it right before I move on. Yes, I realize this is contradictory to everything they preach about momentum in basic story writing class, but I don’t give a shit. If I don’t work out this problem now, it will plague me down the road.
So what’s the skinny?
Last weeks’ goal: Introduce the world to Anna and blow up the Piazza Navona.
Goal = largely met
Next week’s goal: Work out my characterization problem with Anna and her team; write the aftermath and resulting mission; and accumulate a word count in the 5000 range.
This week it’s all about the map.
My first attempt to write Anna’s story of retribution was a dismal failure. I allowed myself to get caught up in the complexity of individual scenes and forgot a vital rule in novel-writing: Every character action/reaction must benefit the progression of the story as a whole. As a result, I lost sight of my final destination. To rectify this problem, I’ve gone where I’ve never gone before.
To the fiery depths of Hell.
Well, not really. Just into the depths of the dreaded outline.
I’ve been working on a vague sketch of Retribution using my favorite prompt game, “What if.” This week the story is beginning to take form. Through this process, it has become obvious that this will be a very different tale from the one I initially envisioned. But it has to be, right? Of course, it does. The last one was complete shit.
So what’s the nitty-gritty on the my weekly progress?
I have a good overview of Retribution down on paper. Of course, there are a few gaps, a few unconnected dots, but I think they will work themselves out during the hardcore outlining phase. Which is where I find myself now – the hardcore outline. Up first, the set up. I’m pleased with the sequence of events in this phase. However, there is one hiccup. Anna’s father. In my last attempt, he was dead. His in-depth characterization was largely inconsequential. He had a peripheral presence that did not require any real exploration. In this version, I have brought him back from the dead – at least for the interim – and his real-time relationship with his daughter is an essential element in the progression of Anna’s story and her quest for revenge. Therefore, he must be fully examined and profiled.
This week’s goal = finish a solid first draft of the setup outline.
Goal = Sort of met, but need to find out what makes Anna’s father tick before I can really set this outline portion in stone.
Next week’s goal = Finish up character profile for Ivan and continue working on setup outline.
I established three key things in my last couple of Just Write blog entries: my main character, Anna, is relentless in her quest to have her story told, my novel (as it stands) is a big pile of dog poo, and that it is necessary to start all over if I hope to produce something even remotely interesting.
In the last day or two, I’ve set about trying to figure out where I went wrong. I am embarrassed – and relieved – to say that it wasn’t all that hard. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I have a foundation problem. The core inciting incident which is pivotal to this plot driven novel occurs fifteen years too soon. I arranged the timeline is such a fashion because I felt that it gave my character depth. This single traumatic incident created the woman she grew to be and dictated her path in life.
Sounds good, right?
Well, at least it sounded good in my head. On paper – not so much.
Turns out, the time gap destroys the credibility of Anna’s motivation. If your character has no motivation, you have no story – at least, not one that anyone would waste their time reading.
I have worked pretty consistently this week on a fresh outline. I am going back to the bare bones with a single sentence tagline, rewritten character profiles, and a basic question and answer sequence in order to sketch out the motivations and obstacles of all involved.
I’ve just started outlining the setup. I’ve got some good ideas percolating. So many so that I am fighting the urge to just start writing. Okay. I will admit to handwriting one scene, but I promise not to type it until my outline is finished.
This week’s goal = Identify problems; fix problems.
Goal = Met; Problems identified. Entire story scraped. New outline started.
Next week’s goal = finish a solid first draft of the setup outline.
Forgive me followers for I have sinned, it’s been three weeks since my last self-shaming Sunday update.
Life is about choices. Sometimes those choices are painful and difficult; sometimes they aren’t. The last three weeks have been devoted to academics, work, a visit from my favorite brother, and a flu-like virus that sucked out my brain and left a snotty, sneezy mess in its place.
Okay, that last little bit might be a tad exaggerated, but I did feel like a big old pile of poo for several days. In fact, today is the first day in days that I’ve felt even remotely human.
In spite of all this, I did manage to get some writing time in here and there. Usually, before classes or at my daughter’s gymnastics practice.
Although, I must admit that I am often distracted by jabbering stage moms who complain endlessly about their trivial trials and tribulations. So, I can’t really say that I get much accomplished at the gym beyond the occasional dark, homicidal scene which are usually unusable. They do tend the make the hour much more enjoyable, though.
So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
In the last three weeks, I’ve written a short story inspired by Wednesday. Yes, the day of the week Wednesday. I’ve always wondered, as I’m sure you have as well, what the days of the week, or the months of the year, would be like if they were characters in life. I touched on this thought before in past blog entries: Monday, the millionaire nerd; Friday, the former jock turned sad, lonely drunk; Wednesday, the voice of reason who hides his inner torment behind a bright reassuring smile. In my blog entries, I didn’t explore the personalities in too much depth, after all, they weren’t meant to be anything more than just a writing exercise. But Wednesday’s characterization struck a chord with me and I wanted to write something more substantial. I finished that last week. I’m not sure how I feel about it, or if it will ever see the light of day, but I’m glad that I got it out.
I also wrote a scene for Retribution. I know I shelved it and deemed it to be a complete unworkable piece of crap, but this particular scene whispered relentlessly in my ear for about a week. Who am I to ignore such persistence?
In addition, this week I made a break through on a story that I haven’t worked on in a couple of years. Ironically, this epiphany came while I was working to outline a third, unrelated story. Now I’m going to have to dig out that story’s outline. I really hate outlining, too. A necessary, but painful evil.
I wish I could give you an accurate word count, but I can’t right of the top of my head. I should go look it up, but that would likely mean that this entry wouldn’t be posted until Monday. I would surely be distracted by something ridiculous and forget to come back to plug in the number. Yes, it is just that ADD in my head right now.
Last time’s goal: I really don’t remember.
This week’s goal: I have two actually. Finish up the rough outline of Untitled Project; and pull out Max and Lola’s outline and see if my new revelation works as well on paper as it does in my head.
Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. ~Henry Ford
I’ve decided that in order to avoid prosecution and a hefty fine for violating my county-wide burn ban, it would be prudent of me to take a step back from Retribution and let it simmer on the back-burner for a while. I don’t feel that I am really ready to thoroughly explain my decision or what incident lead me down this path, but I know in my heart that I am doing the right thing for the story. Boy, that sounds more dramatic than it should, huh? Well, I must admit that right now I feel like I’ve just abandoned a dear friend on a desert island with only a pistol and a jug of rum.
Today, I feel sad but determined. I am beginning the process of flushing out ideas, picking themes, characters and situations from my little box of randomness. I am also going to take the suggestion of fellow blogger, Dawn G. Sparrow at Write Away, and my husband and write something different, something that I wouldn’t normally write.
I am going to write a short story.
This weeks goal: Unmet
Next weeks goal: One short story.
“Failure is the tuition you pay for success.” – Walter Brunell
Why do I suddenly feel like it’s weigh in day and I’ve just come down off of a ten-day junk food eating binge? Could it be because I am feeling guilty?
Let’s get right to the unpleasant self-shaming, shall we:
Last week: 28089 with 144 pages
This week: 30,299 with 154 pages
That is a grand total = 2210words written this week in Retribution. Goal = 3500 words.
Goal not met.
So while I did make progress, I didn’t meet my expected goal for the week. I am disappointed, but not surprised. This week, the majority of the progress was made in the creation of a new scene. I am usually more comfortable in writing in a linear fashion. Skipping around confuses me and therefore, mistakes are made. This new scene occurs much later in the novel than what I am currently working on. However, it screamed at me to be written. Literally grabbed me by the hair and threatened my life.
Okay. Maybe not quite so dramatic, but the urge to write it was overwhelming and as I said before, who am I to argue? Unfortunately, this scene caused a bit of chaos and controversy. It brought to light and created some issues that need to be resolved. I am working on that. I suppose these kinds of things are a necessary evil, but it is frustrating nonetheless. And I can’t help but feel a twinge of guilt for failing to deliver 3500 words.
But if there is one thing I’ve learned in the last few years, it’s that if you fall down and miss the mark, you get up and have another go at it.
Next week’s goal: 3500 words.
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