Sometimes, things just don’t go the way I planned them.
Last week, I finished reading The Night Circus. It was glorious. I loved it so much that I went and purchased the hardcover copy the next day. This post is not about The Night Circus but if you want to read all about my love of it, you can do so here.
My point is that sometimes you read a book that comes together so perfectly, it makes you go back and reflect on your own work. The Night Circus did that for me, and I spent several hours that day thinking about my current draft. You know what?
Pantsing is fun, but it doesn’t create a good story. Not for me. My initial plot of “Angry witch lady captures little girl with a wild imagination and her older brother has to go to the dream world to save her” is a really raw beginning of a plot outline, but it’s not a story. It’s not something I would pick up at a bookstore, so why would anyone else?
As a result of these musings, I’ve begun again. I know the world. I know my characters. I know one of the subplots… and now I am learning more. Other than my daily writing, here’s what I’ve done this week to strengthen my story:
- Separated the tale out into 5 POVs. Each one has its own folder, and I switch between POVs to tell what each character was doing at the same time. This has resulted in 3 really solid chapters, 2 that could be refined, and 1 that isn’t probably going to be used but was really good character motive and behind-the-scenes story development for me to remember later.
- Left notes on chapters. This is a new option for me, since previously I’ve written in MS Word (bleh) or Novlr… Ulysses is a great resource for a writer with a scattered mind. I have a few thousand words in background notes and future plot thoughts, as well as research discoveries. Yes!
- Asked for perspective. My best friends have an eight-year-old daughter who I’m loosely basing one of my MCs on. She’s a bright, imaginative girl and loves to read. She has a great imagination. Despite the fact that Lucy Brown has been in my head for five years, I’m 28 and it’s not easy to get in the mind of an 8-year-old. That was a long time ago. Fortunately, my friends’ daughter was more than happy to offer some perspective, and she gave me some answers I wasn’t expecting. Also she wants a copy of the book someday. Which gives me a goal publication timeline… 4-8 years from now when she’s old enough to read it and her mother won’t kill me!
I think it’s really good to be able to step back from something I’ve spent a lot of time and effort on, be able to look at it objectively, and be able to say “This isn’t working”. It’s hard, it sucks, but I’m excited to move forward taking a different path.
Also there’s no way in the world this will be finished by the end of July.