Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Choosing Our Paths

Last week's blog post is still sitting in draft.  After a few paragraphs written during a plague of interruptions, I decided to let it sit and simmer.  I'm glad I did.  Things happen for a reason.

Late last night I finished writing the first three chapters of a new book.  Those pages plus a synopsis will soon be a proposal that will be sent to my agent and then my editor.  Not that it's important, but mostly to set the stage for showing that, although our goals are quite often the same, the ways in which we get there can be very different.

I had a story idea.  I had the main characters.  The setting was already there.  What else did I need?
  • Conflict? check
  • Characters' backstories? check
  • Opening? check
  • Idea of what scenes 1-3 (first chapter) will involve? check
  • 1st Turning Point? check
  • Main Turning Point? check
  • Black Moment? check
  • Resolution aka HEA? check
  • Story plotted?  Uh, not yet, so no check
That's the way I usually start.  Idea, characters (including their GMCs), bare bones plotting and an opening.  It's worked fairly well, but this is the first time I really thought about what I was doing.  I like it better when the plot simply falls into place when I first start to fill out my plotting board, but it didn't happen this time.  Other writers do it different ways.  Some are meticulous plotters, some are pansters and jump right in as soon as an idea strikes.  Others do it a little different each time.
DISCLAIMER:  Below is my method, the path I chose to take.  It is not the right path for everyone.  In fact, a few years ago it wouldn't have been the right path for me.  When I first started writing, it would have definitely NOT been my path.  We grow, we change, and we try new things.
The first chapter went fairly well, and the day after I finished it, I started the second chapter...only to realize chapter 1 need some changes.  Major changes.  All that plotting in my head that I'd done didn't gel when I moved on with the story.  What to do?

My choice at this point was to either go back and rewrite sections of the first chapter or to continue on with the first, keeping in mind what I'll need to change later.  I chose to wait until I finished the third chapter.

Let me say that I have many writing friends who revise and polish as they go.  They're pros at it.  It works well for them and they continue to make it work.  When I try it, I feel like I'm running a race on a treadmill.  I can't let go of the idea that I'm not moving forward.  That's merely a deception I haven't overcome.  Besides, I tell myself, it will have to be done at some point, so why not now?   Well, because I said so, I guess.

When I finished writing the second chapter (without revising anything in the first, but keeping in mind what I would change), I knew my characters much better.  They were letting me in their heads.  I was even jotting down snippets of dialogue to be used later that kept popping into my mind.  Those helped form more scene ideas, so I was able to add more scenes to my plotting board.  I was making headway. But as I opened my template to start chapter 3, I froze.  I was one chapter away from needing a solid plot.

Ideas come to us at the strangest times.  I've been working on making a new habit of taking a pad of paper with me each day when I go to pick up grandkids after school.  I go early for a good parking place, then sit. Prime time, if the brain cooperates.  The day after that third chapter freeze netted me all but three or four scenes for the rest of the book.  To be honest, I was amazed that they came to me so quickly and easily, but looking back, my subconscious was probably working on it all the time when my conscious mind was writing pages.

Last night's writing time took me to the end of chapter 3, so with all three chapters finished, except for the changes that I'll make in chapter one, I'm ready to finish plotting so I can write a seven to eight page synopsis.  Just knowing the main event (mini GMCs) of each scene is like having a road map of where the story is going and where it will end.  Sure, there will be some changes, especially those in the first chapter, but because I'm aware of it, I won't panic.  Or shouldn't, anyway. ☺

That's my path, but rest assured that it changes and morphs with each new story.  I love to hear about the paths of others, because there might be something in them that will be an asset in my mine.  Always remember, your path isn't set in stone.  Like the weather, it can changed in a moment's notice.  That's a good thing, because it means we're not only growing, but these small changes can help keep our writing process fresh.  Choose your path and make it uniquely yours!

        Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
        I took the one less traveled by,
        And that has made all the difference.
        ~ Robert Frost

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