March 04, 2010

The awkward stage

If my wip were a person right now it would be a teenager. A slightly sullen, earphone wearing, far-more-interested-in-texting-their-best-friends-than-talking-to-someone-as boring-as-the-person-writing-it teenager. It's at that awkward stage. It happens every book.

I'm not a plotter, so I tend to plunge into a book with a shiny crunchy idea and see what happens. What usually happens is that the shiny crunchy idea and initial book rush gives me enough momentum to get about a bit less than a third of the rough draft in (around 100 pages for one of my long books) and it gets tricky. I start to realise I have no idea what's happening, feel like there's no plot and can't really remember what was exciting or interesting about the idea in the first place. It all feels flat and dull. The words come more or less (though there will be a point where I'm just stuck for a bit and have to keep circling back through what I've written while I think) but they feel off kilter (even though when I come back to revise they'll be no better or worse than the rest of it). It's the bit where my analytical side starts to try and take over and say "we NEED to know what's going on. you NEED a plot. The sky is falling etc etc".

Depending on the book, this means brainstorming or whining to my crit partners or just ignoring it and plowing on or skipping ahead to some of the bits further on in the book that I do know and getting those down in the hopes of shaking something that will pull it together loose. This particular book, I have only the vaguest idea of later scenes. I don't even have a very good idea about the last scene (and I usually know that) though I'm starting to get glimpses. And I've done some brainstorming but haven't yet had the lightning bolt idea. So I'm thinking that I just have to put my head down and keep writing.

Of course, for this book, for the first time, I know that in a few weeks it will have to be put on hold for a bit while I do revisions on Shadow Kin. And I know that what changes in SK will have an impact on this book. But that's really just going to be situation normal from now on. I will be interrupted to do revisions or copy edits or whatever publishing throws up. I will have to chop and change. So I'm using this as an opportunity to learn how to do it. Learning how to plot in advance might be more useful but I've been doing this for eight odd years now and have never really managed to find a way of plotting that doesn't send the muse screaming from the room...I know I'll probably have to do outlines or proposals in the future but I'm not under the illusion that the books will end up much like those proposals. Or that I will enjoy doing them.

So for now, it's much like dealing with a teenager, stay positive and just keep moving forward. My goal for the next four days is to get to 40k. Should be do-able. I might even get the blinding flash of inspiration.

So what about everyone else? Do your books have awkward stages? Are you pantsers who sometimes wish desperately for an industrial strength flashlight to show you the way like me or do you wrestle with the story in advance while you plot and then just write your way through? Any tips or tricks for coaxing a story out to play?

PS Don't forget: comment on any of my posts this month and you're in the running to win a copy of Robin McKinley's Sunshine (details here).

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