Nothing but Pretty Roads

If you’re a writer, you probably know how easy constructing a tale can be. You start in one place, and before you know it you’re flying along, picking up bits of plot and pasting them to the moving storyline. It’s a bit like a scene from this Wallace and Gromit movie I used to watch when I was a kid, “The Wrong Trousers”, where Gromit has to build the tracks of a toy train as he’s riding it to keep from being de-railed. It’s pretty panic-inducing, but it’s easy enough; the pieces fit and you can always turn if you’re going to hit a wall.

I haven’t written in my blog for a long while now, and part of the reason for that was a need for a break from writing. I thought I had completed my novel; I even started sending queries to agents. I realized it needed some tweaking, so I pulled it aside and went back to work. Then came the mutation.

I’ve always gone the “building the train tracks as you go” route as far as plotting is concerned. I never saw the relative ease as a warning sign; I thought it was more muse-inspired and just rolled with it. Recently, however, I decided to write a short story as a birthday present to a dear friend of mine. I’m not used to short stories (barring school assignments), and the brevity of the tale forced me to see something which my full-length novels never have. That story didn’t breathe, it didn’t speak, and it certainly didn’t dance. It nodded blithely to the passerby as it lumbered on its way. It honestly made me want to fall asleep.

So I went back to the plotline, and wherever I came to a spot where it “felt” like something should happen, I mixed it up. More perilous detours in the way of the protaganist’s goal, more unpredictability and more mind-blowing (or at least ear-perking) plot twists. In the end, I had a fantastic story.

After this, I finally understood what had become of the book I actually wish to publish. Because, you see, when I first decided to tweak it, I made a small adjustment to the plot as well. And then everything erupted into madness.

Chapters that had been in the beginning moved to the end; characters’ motives multiplied alarmingly (I swear they were breeding); new twists and dark alleyways disrupted the straight train tracks of the plot; and everybody in the story felt so deeply, and expressed it so uniquely. I thought before that I knew what good characters were about. I had been gravely mistaken.

After recovering from the shock of watching my neat, abstract story multiply and evolve into some surreal, throbbing monstrosity, I felt mostly fatigue. “What, now I have to write all THIS?” And then I sulked.

But after writing the plot for that short story (which, by the way, I never even wrote), I realized I had no reason to despair. My story had simply come alive, broken the confines of its easy plot and grown into a conceivable series of events, happening to conceivable people. Real life is wrought with twists and perils, motives and detours, and no story—perhaps especially fantasy—can feel human without it. I wanted to craft a beautifully smooth plot, something concise and clever. But my life is filled with cracks and rubble. How could a character’s life feel realistic—much less sympathetic—if the path on which they walk’s main feature is aestheticism?

Labyrinthine

It’s been a while since last I wrote and I don’t have any good excuses. While it’s true that I’ve been tied up beating my first chapter into submission, I still could have found time to write other things. I guess I’ve just been so busy worrying about all my different projects and goals that I haven’t accomplished much at all. For that, I apologize.

Now, about that first chapter.

I finally finished the rough draft last night (just of the chapter). I’m ashamed to admit it, but it took me over a month. I’m telling you, books are nasty little buggers, always bent on revenge. Or maybe I just don’t listen well. Or I’m tired. I’ve been writing this novel for five years; I’m bound to lose my motivation sometimes.

However, I have learned a thing or two about beginnings along the way. And I hate them a little less.

One thing I learned was that I’ve been leaning too heavily on a certain character. An extremely important character, but still. This led me to another discovery. I thought I leaned on this character out of favoritism, but the truth was that he was just so much more interesting than the protagonist, and therefore more fun to write. My MC needed more goals and conflict. It took all this to give her what she wanted.

Every time I have to do revisions and rewrites, it drives me crazy. It seems as though I’ll never see the end, but I think I learned something last night. A couple things, perhaps.

First off, I’ve only been writing seriously for about a decade, and I need to be less hard on myself. I want to create something truly spectacular, and for that I need patience.

Also, I’ve gained trust in my artistic instinct. If I hadn’t decided to re-write the story’s beginning, my MC would have retained a lack of intricacy through the entirety of the series. Don’t get me wrong; she was a great character. But now she’s a fantastic one.

So maybe re-writing isn’t so bad after all. Especially for somebody as young as me, who still has a lot to learn.

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