Sunday, May 28, 2006
Taking Another Week to Plan
I've been re-reading a number of articles available online (see links in the sidebar) and also a couple of books on writing, revisiting concepts again and again, each time gaining a better understanding of the various pieces of the process and how things fit together. My focus is on goals, both internal and external. This relates to motivation, obviously, and the emotional arc of the main character, how to tie things together not just on the surface level of an action plot, but on a deeper level related to the inner life of the main character...what the character needs to learn, how he needs to grow over time, how he must change internally in order to finally solve the external problems and prevail during the final climactic scene.
In fact, I've been making so much progress with expanding and deepening my knowledge of these concepts, that I want to take another week to continue working on this. One of the ways I know this is helping is that I have compared some tables and notes I made back in October when I was first planning THE REFLECTING STONE with more recent tables I made this past week for both THE REFLECTING STONE and HARRY VS. THE TRUCK, and I've seen an enormous amount of growth in my understanding of how things are tied together. I don't want to short-change this growth by rushing too quickly into another draft.
Working with the two novels at the same time is actually helpful to me. Editing one and planning another allows me to have a fresh look at new material while revisiting material I know in detail from the recently finished draft. Working on the same concepts for both novels helps me to see the same concepts from different perspectives, to try out ideas and see how they play out in different contexts. I can see what is the same, what is different, what is constant or universal.
I will need to do some significant tweaking to the draft for THE REFLECTING STONE in order to heighten the sense of goal-directedness. I tend to slip too easily into a writing mode where things just happen. Although I knew this going in and made a substantial effort to counteract this tendency by establishing clear goals, there is still this quality that things sort of just happen and the main character is swept along. Those things that seem to just happen are great events for the novel, perfectly suited, but I need to edit the way I introduce these things to strengthen the sense that the main character makes decisions and wants to go in certain directions. Also, some things I handed to him on a silver platter that I now see he needs to fight for, seek out, win for himself.
I haven't finished the Goals/Complications/Resolutions Table for THE REFLECTING STONE as I had planned, but I have written several pages of notes that help establish a very solid foundation for the main character's goals. I feel I have finally answered clearly in my own mind some key plot questions, particularly pertaining to the ending of the story, that I had never fully settled on. So, I did accomplish a good bit of work, just not the exact items I had planned to do. Again, I need more time to do a thorough job at this point.
As for HARRY VS. THE STONE, I created as similar set of notes for that novel that have helped establish a much more solid foundation for the goals. As I mentioned in previous postings, I have already completed chapter descriptions for 37 chapters, the entire projected story, but still I must edit that material. In order to do a good job with that, to really get the quality of the work to where I want it, I realized I needed to satisfy some questions I had about motivation, emotional arc, what the character needs to learn, etc. So, now that I have this solid foundation, and it's definitely very solid compared to what I was working with just a week ago, I'll have the opportunity in this coming week to go back through these 37 chapters and do a much better job of editing than I would have done had I simply rushed through it this weekend to start writing immdediately. Again, another week will be very helpful. The effort spent on planning up front makes for a better draft, and saves a lot of effort in going back and fixing things later in the editing. I want to launch each novel in the best way possible to save time on the other end.
What has been happening these past days in terms of making progress in my understanding and skills is similar to what happened earlier in the process when I was developing THE REFLECTING STONE. At that time I saw the connection between theme and plot and used theme as a way to help select plot events. That certainly helped me to create much better outlines. What I am working on now is adding the dimension of character, of the character's inner life, internal goals, need to learn something, to grow and change. This is much more powerful stuff, although theme is obviously still an important concept. I'm really happy that I'm finally "getting it". Even though I've read all these articles and thought about all this stuff before, it is connecting for me on a deeper level now. Even though I worked with this in planning THE REFLECTING STONE, I see it much more clearly now. Real growth!
Wishing everyone else working on a novel, or contemplating how to write one, the very best!