bookmark_borderSewing together a new first draft

One of my objectives of having a blog is to track the learning experiences of the process of learning to write fiction so this particular entry is an attempt to log some of the things that I’ve noted recently. Currently I’m working on a second version of the first draft of my 3DayNovel. I don’t consider this to be a second draft as I’m not revising much of what has already been written; this is a second version of the first draft. At least that’s how I see it.

What I have is around 20,000 words to add to the original 23,000 that I wrote this past Labor Day weekend. One of the interesting things is that I feel as if I’ve written some new subroutines and now I have to figure out how and where these run the compiler to insert them in the original program. These new chunks don’t just slide right in; I didn’t have obvious sections that I missed and I didn’t rewrite any material in this second stage of writing so now the old has to be revised to connect properly with the new. New connecting paragraphs and explanations have to be written and some old writing has to be revised to devise a logical connection to the new material. It’s as if I’m sewing new blocks into a quilt or replacing a kidney, or something like that.

It’s also reinforced to me the fact that I’m cheap with words. It can be very difficult for me to write or to say a lot of words if I don’t have a reason to do so. As a result I only came up with 20,000 words over two-three weeks, and, with only one exception so far, I’ve found a place to work the new material into the story. In other words it’s hard for me come up with words, and then they have come through such a difficult filter in order to escape me that it’s hard not to use them when they’re out. Kinda like appreciating the little gems that you produce when you’re constipated?

So, right now I’m doing a little writing, most of it in the form of stitching material together into a coherent whole.

bookmark_borderPost-NaNoWriMo 2011, or, Begining the second version of the 3DayNovel

So I didn’t make the 20,000 words in eleven days to total 50,000 for my manufactured NaNoWriMo for this year, but I did manage to come up with close to 15,000, and have kept at it since then, though at a much slower pace.

But after spending two weeks since then trying to add scenes to my original 23,000 word 3DayNovel I became aware that most of the new material added new characters, something that I had a slight inclination to try to avoid at first because I felt that I had enough characters for the length of the story. I tried to add scenes using the existing characters but found that difficult to do because I was also trying to avoid writing the scenes that I had already identified as missing and needed; I was trying to focus on fresh material only and it was difficult to do so without adding characters.

Is there any point in having the MC have dinner with his friend again? If they go somewhere, do something, does that add anything to the story? These are some of the things that I tried, but came up with dead ends in most of the time.

Then I looked at pushing one of the secondary characters, taking the POV and seeing some of his story. The next two most important characters have to remain mysteries so any POV done from their perspective would have to be deliberately obtuse, and that might be difficult given their secrets; they have huge secrets that they’re hiding with almost everything they say or do. (But then there’s great conflict hiding there! ) And given that it’s a short novel, shifting of POV can’t be treated casually. It’s not ‘War and Peace’ where it makes total sense to spend some time seeing the world from Pierre’s eyes, from Natasha’s eyes, even from Petra’s eyes.

So I may do some POV shifting to tell more sidestory or backstory. But the important thing that I realized is that:

  • My MC is boring when he’s not doing something that he’s good at

He’s also not awful at anything, so I can’t show him screwing things up, which also might be entertaining. But trying to generate more scenes with him by adding scenes that do not have anything to do with the mystery that he will solve is really difficult, which is why I added characters as I tried to spin out more material. Imagine Jack Reacher going for a walk to kill time and not meeting thugs or Kinsey Milhone sitting in a movie theater for no plot reason. I did manage to show more about his history, his personality, and a lot about other perspectives and attitudes about the story that he’s researching so these additional characters add something to the story.

But this is where it ties back to the second charater’s POV for this particular story that I’m working on. There is a huge chunk of material that’s key to solving the mystery that the second character digs up and dumps on the lap of the MC. On one hand this is like material supplied by Garcia to the rest of the BAU in ‘Criminal Minds’ and you don’t want to sit there and watch her trying to hack into systems and then querying databases and then cross referencing her materials, but that’s where the a large part of the information to solve the mystery comes from. The result is that there’s a lot ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’, or in this case ‘discovering’ this material, which is a fundamental fiction writer’s error.

How do you write about research and turn it into an activity? Especially when it’s all done from a wheelchair?