November 15, 2005

So Much For That

Well, I was going like gangbusters. Then I started thinking about what I'd been filling those pages with. Urk. Aside from my prologue, I pretty much hated everything there. So, out it went. Even the prologue on closer look had huge holes in it. I sat down and rewrote it, taking two hours to end up adding just a couple hundred words. But when I was done, it was something I was actually proud to have written. I haven't had anything like that for a while.

I proceeded to take several days to retool my story; throwing out the plot, retrieving the plot, mutating the plot (you get the idea). I even tried the old index card approach (one scene per card, spread them out on a table and rearrange until you have a masterpiece). Ate up a couple days and way too many trees with that one. Finally, when nothing seemed to be working, I read something on Absolute Write which got me thinking. By some fluke or kismet in the ether, there was a discussion going on there about whether to "plan or wing it". There were a lot of good opinions and ideas in there, but the one that resonated the most with me was that even when people are "winging it", there's more going on than just stream-of-consciousness typing. Either you're aware of structure or you're not, was the point being made. Regardless of how you assembled your book.

This got me thinking.

On reflection, I realized I had never written anything that was planned out. I just sort of sat down and wrote. There was obviously all kinds of nifty things going on below the surface there, but I didn't bother my conscious mind with that blather...I just wrote my story. Whenever I've tried to block out a story before writing it (as I did with the novel attempt I just tossed) I always felt like I'd already written the story, so why bother with it? The excitement or growing of my characters, situations and themes was gone. I'd get bored and wander downstairs to see what was on the tube.

And again, this got me thinking.

What this meant was something I suppose I've always known: I have an innate understanding of structure. I'd have to for any of those early stories to have a beginning, middle and end when I had no idea what I was doing. But something happened a half dozen years ago that torpedoed my confidence in this fact. I'm still not sure what "it" was. A fairly astute friend of mine pointed out that this loss of confidence coincided almost exactly with the birth of my daughter. There may be something to that. It certainly is true that before you have children, you think you know everything; and afterwards, you realize you know absolutely nothing. My friend also pointed out that until you have children, you really have no idea what real fear is. I'd have to agree with her there. Despite having written mostly horror for years, I recently found myself uneasy about watching horror movies or reading horror stories. How that plays into the fatherhood thing, I haven't figured out yet. But I'm pretty sure it does.

Anyways, it would appear that what I need to do is learn to trust myself again. Get my confidence back. This isn't something you can do overnight or even with a single project. But at least now I know where I want to go.

So, using the basic structure of my original novel, and the prologue that survived my unprejudiced editor's blade, I layed out what I think is a better backstory and a few high points I want to hit. And that's all the conscious planning I'm going to do. Now I'm just going to sit down and write. I have no idea where this is going to take me. All I know is I'm going there. If you'd like, you can come along with me. Please ignore the screaming and the tears. That's just me.


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