Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Clearer Vision Means Throwing Out Hours of Work

I've written before about my devotion to writing to the best of my ability, and how that sometimes means throwing out hours of work for the greater good.

I went through a chunk of time in the middle (more like the beginning) of writing An Offbeat Affair where I didn't write anything. This was partially due to a lack of time, but it was also because I didn't feel comfortable moving forward until I had a better idea of where I was going.
You see, gentle reader, despite having planned out my novel from beginning to end, the process of writing is nothing like making a blueprint for a building. It's much more fluid and dynamic; nothing is set in stone. The story takes on a life of its own and you milk that life for every word its worth - initial planning be damned!

Sometimes, as was true in this case, the story was taking on a life of its own that was quite terrible. I fell into old habits of giving characters traits that were nothing more than gimmicks. It makes sense why I did - I'm used to writing short stories where a character's intentions and psychology don't go nearly as deep as they do in a novel. In a short story I can get away with a character having a gimmick, because the story won't go on long enough for you to realize how shallow a character trait it really is.

I didn't even realize this at first - what I realized was that my story was uninteresting and I had no idea what the characters were really like. I didn't even know what fueled my own main character. Luckily, all I had to do in her case was to go back to the short story I'm basing this novel on and examine her from a new perspective. Her actions could no longer be described simply as "interesting" or "funny," as they had been when all I was concerned with was a short story. I needed to understand why it was interesting or funny. I needed to get into her head and see where she was coming from.

The other characters weren't as easy. In the short story you barely get a glimpse of each one; they hadn't been fleshed out nearly as much as my main character. For her roommate (who actually only appeared in one of my other short stories), who suffered from the most from gimmicks and stereotypes, I had to re-imagine her mental state in a way that was different from her stereotype, and added to the story in a way that the main character did not. I ended up taking a bit of advice from Pixar (yes, the studio that made Toy Story); the best stories come out of forcing two complete opposites to interact with each other (for Toy Story - Buzz and Woody being the new vs. the old).

With a better understanding of who my characters were, I set off to edit what little I'd written of the novel, only to find that there were entire scenes that no longer made sense. As I said earlier, I'm not one to dwell on something I've spent hours working on if it doesn't end up adding to the overall story (a characteristic I surely hope an editor will someday love about me). I've thrown those scenes out, and am going to approach the story from the new understanding of what these characters are like and how they would interact with each other. Throughout this entire process, I've also begun to re-imagine what the ending might be like - again deviating from my initial plan,

So what do I hope you get out of all of this? After all, my blog shouldn't just be me shouting out my struggles and triumphs into a great empty abyss.
If you are a writer: I hope that this inspires you to look at your story with a more critical eye - to realize that parts of your story that you love just may be holding it back from greatness. Realize that your story can be better, but first you need to be willing to let go of what's holding it back.
If you're not a writer: take this example to your own life. Is what you're doing going to be worth it in the end? If you spend hours a day sitting in front of the computer or television, ask yourself if it's worth it. Realize that you can be better, but first you need to be willing to let go of what's holding you back.

If you're an editor: please give me money to write this story for you.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lack of Apples, NaNoWriMo, and a Rename

Just when I was starting to think I was running out of things in my own life to tell you about, and was about to resort to mindless rantings, a whole bunch of interesting things happened.

Firstly, my plans to plant an apple tree have unfortunately been cancelled, on account of me accidentally killing the apple seeds that I was so excited to plant.
You see, the instructions I had found online (which I will not be linking you to) told me to germinate the seeds in my refrigerator for at least six weeks. Last week would have been five weeks, so I checked up on them only to find that not only had the seeds not sprouted at all, but there were spots of mold forming on the damp paper towel around the seeds. I promptly threw them out and consulted a real live person who told me that I should have put them somewhere warm and in the sun -- you know, the type of place that plants actually grow.

Secondly, I've officially decided to take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.org) for the first time. I've signed up on the site and have started tracking my word count. The unfortunate irony, of course, is that I cannot count the words written in my blog, making the time it takes to write this very post a bit wasteful when you consider the difficult goal of 50,000 words of a story in a month. I'd been aware of NaNoWriMo in the past, but this was the first year that I realized that it's an actual organized event and not just a title slapped onto a time of the year.

Lastly, and tied to NaNoWriMo, is news about the novel I'm writing. I've been writing the novel based on my short story titled "The Other Woman," and so I was tentatively using the same title as the short story for the title of the novel. I never wanted to use that title, as the novel is about much more than the main character being "the other woman" (dating a cuckold/married man). For the longest time I couldn't think of one, but didn't stress over it since I'd barely finished the first two chapters.

On the NaNoWriMo forums there is a place for people to get help with the titles of their works, and I was tempted to use this resource since part of NaNoWriMo is putting the title, description, and excerpt of the novel you're writing in your profile. It embarrassed me to have such a simple and inaccurate title.
Instead of using the resource, I started brainstorming while simultaneously using an online thesaurus. I wanted a title that couldn't be thought of in five seconds, and I'd always been fond of titles of classic literature (I had joked a few times of calling my novel "Having Once Been Normal" simply because it takes a simple phrase and makes it sound elegant).

Long story short (arguably), I've thought of a new title for my novel, which, henceforth, shall be called "An Offbeat Affair".

Wish me luck in reaching 50,000 words in a month!