Friday, April 30, 2010
This is/was the biggest thing I've encountered as an 'observer' of other writers, in that you might offer them what you feel is good advice that might help them fix a novel that is about there, but needs a little more help. And these writers might be initially resistant to change. Because it scares them, or because they just don't see what you see... not yet.
For example, there is a novelist out there who had a PERFECT project. I read her query and synopsis and feel that she just needs to start applying to all of the agents out there to snag one and get in business.
The problem is that the writing itself is a little fuzzy. I'm not sure if it is as strong as it needs to be. I'm comparing it (somewhat) with the writing from another friend, who is most definitely right there. In fact, this other friend has an agent for one project and has that agent's interest with the two other projects she's writing and editing.
Another friend too is one of those amazing wonderkins who writes things that have the right sound on the first draft, even if the plot workings are a little rough.
Back to that writer whom I'm trying to help... I think she's almost there, but she needs to tighten up on the writing and flesh out her characters. They aren't as strong as they should be.
That leads me to my biggest revelation or point, in that it is very easy to find fault with other people's writing. It's easy to recognize all of the things they need to change in order to improve their writing skills. But there needs to be a moment where you realize that that so-called perfect project you weaved together is not as good as it could be, because you need to change something. <- And that is the point where your edits and revisions start to have merit.
This past week I decided to add another plot thread to my BSW project. This involved going back to the beginning and working all of the threads in. Several things happened as I did this.
I realized that people were right. The beginning of the story was not necessarily as strong as it could have been. In fact, it was verging on sitting on that narrow strip of land between cliched and boring.
So I made changes to the first chapter.
Chapter 2 came next, and I realized that I REALLY DIDN'T LIKE the interaction between Wesley and her classmates, including the one character who is going to be a main character right alongside her.
The one plot point I started with when I first wrote the nano novel was this "He is unwilling to step up and take on the job he was born with, and she is terrified by the unseen world that's beginning to reveal itself to her."
I played on the unwilling thing when I first wrote Chapter 2, and urk! He came across like somebody who was just being crabby and obnoxious because somebody (er, like me, the author) told him he had to be. It was too forced.
The other thing, and I had this discussion with my sister while we went hiking recently... I was trying too hard to show chemistry between the two characters. It wasn't there (partly because he was such a whiny snot I wanted to reach into the story and smack him upside the head).
She and I laughed about how unattractive and annoying all teenage guys are - seriously. Even the slick, clean, and zitless ones. <- A good example would be Elizabeth Mitchell's son from V. Oh. My. Gosh. That kid ANNOYS ME! He doesn't deserve Lisa, who is becoming a much more interesting character now she's becoming humanized.
I moaned and groaned about how much more interesting it would be if I got to write about a guy who was in his twenties. Except then that would be pretty gross - because the plot demands that the protagonist be in high school still.
And then it hit me.
Why should I push it?
It isn't so important that the guy character have this perfect CHEMISTRY thing with the protagonist. It is important that he be an individual character who has his own agenda going on.
If you think about what everyone complains about Mary Sues and Gary Stus - it's because of the implausibility of them going to a new school and suddenly having all of the other students instantly crushing on them.
So. I focused on developing Nic last night in a stronger character. I cut 2000 words (Wesley and Nic encountering each other in the woods by the school and chit-chatting about non essentials while Nic whined and crabbed and glared at the WORLD!!!!) and I replaced them with 3000 words (Wesley exploring the woods by the school and tripping over Nic, talking a little bit during which he implies that people at the school know about her tragic story and she questions him about his 'Voldemort-stick'. The implication is he is a slitherer-outerer who isn't telling her everything but she guesses that he is possibly a little weird and is bullied by all the other guys at the school because of it. He noticeably acted nervous when they walk past a group of the other guys, including one who Wesley is crushing on).
I know exactly what's going on with the guy now - especially since I'm now thinking of him as a main character and not just a neutral soul-less love interest (think about those guys who randomly appear on shows like Bones. You know Temperance won't wind up with them, because they are definitely not as fully developed as Sealey is).
The other thing I did with Chapter 2 was scrap this scene with Tamara (the youngest sister) acting unearthly and warning Wesley about the bogeyman. I liked this... when I wrote it, but I realized last night that it gave the wrong impression and was (according to Simon Cowell) indulgent. It was also cliched. So I scrapped that scene and wrote in a new scene with Tamara doing her homework at the kitchen table and Wesley having a teeny tiny vision about something she couldn't possibly have known about. I also set up a revised scene in the next chapter with Tasha (oldest sister) going to a doctor's appointment. :)
Chapter 3 came next, and so far I scrapped the first half of the chapter (conversation between Tasha and Wesley about nothing really, but showing sulky antagonism from Wesley about Tasha trying to turn the school into some kind of rave club to hook up with guys). I SCRAPPED THAT. Instead, I used the scene to show the frazzled relationship between the two sisters... and set up the scene in the next chapter.
That's how far I got before I started to give in to how tired I was at 12:30AM. I'll keep writing tonight... and hopefully catch up to the current chapter so I can keep going and finish this draft.
Through all of this, I guess my point is that a month ago I would not have considered making such drastic changes to the project. Seriously, I wouldn't have. I'm not patting myself on the back here and saying "What a good writer I am", because I know there will come a point sooner or later where I'll be looking at the three chapters I revised per above and scrapping them while I rewrite them for the better.
I think there are different kinds of writers out there...
There are the kinds who can write something perfect the first time round. These are those noxious people who only write one draft which they only need to edit.
Then there are writers like me, who write something HORRIBLE the first time round, and must redraft a cazillion times before the plot/characters turn into something that works.
Hopefully, I'll get the results the other kind of writer does... even if it takes me a bit longer.
The main thing though is I recognize that what makes me a better writer is acknowledging that I have to make changes, and knowing it isn't going to kill me. :)