Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Homework

I’m with Donis on the topic of writing plot summaries. To my mind, they are about as enjoyable to do as high school homework, and just as tedious. I tend to avoid them at all costs.

Still, reading over her Saturday blog entry got me thinking. As a musician, I know my tendency is to, at worst, try to avoid practising things I find difficult, and at best, force myself to work on them. Either way it’s a struggle, but I know if I do slog through those troublesome notes and rhythms, I’ll become a better player.

I realized that doing a plot summary might be the same sort of thing: good for me, but something I avoid because I find them difficult and unenjoyable. I mean, why spend time working on one when I could be spending that time either working on a novel or editing it, both of which I find a lot more enjoyable.

I’m also only in the beginning stages of a new novel. I can’t really write a plot summary because I don’t really know all that much about the plot yet. There I sat yesterday — Victoria Day here in Canada — with lots of good intentions and nothing to apply them to. Still, I felt I should take advantage of my mindset before the beautiful day beckoning outside got the better of me.

So I spent about 5 hours trying to write a plot summary to a novel that doesn’t exist yet. And a curious thing happened: it slowly began to pull together. (Hopefully, you won’t sit there and say, “My God, what a dolt!” If you do, please keep it to yourself.)

After about an hour of scrambling around, doing an awful lot of cutting and very little pasting as I tried to get past the latest plot point I do have for the novel, ideas started suggesting themselves to me: of course if this happens, it follows that will have to take place. It was as if my cast of characters began forming a circle behind my seat, making interjections, telling me which ideas were completely full of shit, and which ones might actually work. A new character walked in midway to ask if he could be in the book, and another suddenly took on new importance to what I wanted to accomplish.

Okay, I’ll say from the outset that I might chuck the whole thing out the window as I move along through the writing process, but it showed me that I really could think far ahead into my story in a linear fashion. Usually, I work from one distant point to another, the ideas I have being separated by what I’ll realize only as I try to from one to the next. It’s sort of like standing on a mountaintop and seeing the next mountaintop I have to stand on, while in between, there’s a valley of fog.

From where I stand now, there’s very little fog, and that’s a big change.

I’ll get back to you in several months to let you know how it all worked out.

3 comments:

Donis Casey said...

I love the idea of your characters forming a circle around your seat. The image is so true. Sometimes the author feels like nothing more than a conduit through which these people speak.

Rick Blechta said...

Do you hear voices, too? I do, all the time. In fact, I have to go, sorry. One of them is speaking to me now.

;)

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