Thursday, July 3, 2014

Writing a novel: Month 3

Well it's more like month 2.5, but whatever.  I completed the first chapter of my book, out of nine planned chapters.  I am maybe a third of the way through the second chapter.  Progress is fairly slow because there are some weeks where I just don't work on it at all.  I'm hoping that writing about writing will help me to not stall.

Often, when I stall, I worry where the story is going.  It doesn't seem to be going anywhere.  There isn't much at stake.

In genre fiction, the hero saves the world, and in the process learns something about themselves.  In my novel, the protagonist is not a hero, does nothing noteworthy, and in the process learns something about himself.

In a romance, the protagonist finds a potential partner, and despite many obstacles forms a relationship.  In my novel, the protagonist forms several relationships in sequence, and the relationships all end.

This actually follows the standard conflict-resolution structure.  The conflict is dysfunctional relationships.  The resolution is separation.  Still, it feels unsatisfying, if only because the end-state is the same as the initial state.  The difference between the initial and final states is that the protagonist learns something.  Given that I'm writing about breakups as positive things, you can take a stab at what you think the protagonist will learn.

But is that really compelling on its own?  And what about when the lesson learned is spread out across several breakups?  What sub-lesson will he learn at each stage?  Ugh...

Sometimes it's better to just focus on the chapter I'm currently writing.  Even when I have things plotted out, I end up writing in lots of things that were not in the plan.  For example, while writing the first chapter, I spontaneously decided that the protagonist once had a crush on his best friend (but didn't realize it).  This sets up some good material for chapter 6, when I get to it.

Perhaps when I've finished with chapter 2, I'll have all the seeds to create chapter 4.  And when I've finished chapter 4, maybe the events of chapter 8 will become clear.  And perhaps by the time I finish chapter 5, the whole story will fall into place.  One can hope.

I've only read a little writing advice, but one thing I've learned is that (supposedly) there are "plotters" and "pantsers".  Plotters plot out what they will write, while pantsers write by the seat of their pants.

I am clearly taking a plotter's approach, given that I know how many chapters there are, and roughly what's happening in each of them.  But it's good to moderate it with a little spontaneity.  Pants onward!