Friday, September 04, 2009

Things fall apart

Charles here, you there, and all is right in the world.

Those of you playing at home will recall that on top of mysteries, I write YA books now and I have a looming deadline, needing to deliver the next manuscript on or before July 1, 2010. A ways off, yes, yet it still looms. And for the past month, I’ve been developing a plot line in my head, working out the major details and planning what direction to take the book. Despite what you may have assumed by some of my earlier posts, I don’t outline or do the 3X5 card thing before I start, but I do spend a lot of time (too much?) thinking through the major path that the novel will take – the protagonist’s motivation, the kind of resolution he’d like to see (and what he’ll get instead), the types of problems he’ll face on his quest and the people he’ll encounter.* I don’t map out specific scenes, but I know what kinds of scenes I’ll write, and I don’t preplan my dialog, but I do jot down good lines when they come to mind. Mostly what I do is go over the premise of the story again and again and again, looking for holes and possible additions. When I start writing in earnest, I feel comfortable about where I’m going and how I’m going to get there, but (with a nod here to Donis and John) I am always ready to consider ‘surprise routes’ when they present themselves. Anyway, this is what I’ve been doing with the YA I’m working on now, and it has been moving along swimmingly.

Until last night. Because last night, in the space of 20 minutes, the entire story fell apart. I found a loose string and gave it a tug and instead of unraveling a bit that could be fixed with a stitch or two, it all came undone. I realized that at least two major assumptions were just so horribly wrong – trust me, they were – that the entire story made no sense. It wasn’t realistic or plausible or even remotely possible (again, just trust me on this) and I knew that the story I was planning to write should never be written.

Twenty minutes and two months of work falls apart. Well over a hundred hours, many miles of wandering as I thought it through...why didn’t I see it sooner? (A topic for a later blog post.)

After that initial revelation, I thought about my options. I could spend another two months trying to salvage this idea but I knew then (as well as I knew anything about my writing) that this idea was a dead end. Best to cut loose and start fresh, let it all go and good day to you, sir. For about two minutes, that realization made me a bit queasy. And then I didn’t feel queasy anymore. I felt…excited. And that’s where I start this morning – back at square one, no baggage in hand, and thrilled about what may come next.

*I say he because, so far, they have all been guys.


Vicki Delany said...

You can consider yourself lucky that you didn't realize the thing was a bomb when you did the final revisions! Good luck with it Charles, I know you'll come up with something great.

John Corrigan said...

As long as you have the character, the story will take care of itself. Onward :)