Sunday, May 18, 2008


Until yesterday I was making great progress on my new story. It was cranking along great. I had written just under 45,000 words in a little over a month. That's fast progress even by my usual breakneck pace. Unfortunately, I must have been watching too much of the qualifying at Indianapolis this week: I hit the wall last night. Today I'm suffering from emotional whiplash ...

What happened?

Where do I start?!

While I still like the overall story idea (it's about lies and deception among friends -- you can do a lot with that!) and I like the cast of characters, just about everything else has gone bad. For one thing, I got to the end too quickly. There is not enough narrative. My original idea was to sketch the characters in very broad strokes and to focus on the sequence of events that ultimately destroy the various relationships. That was a bad idea. I ended up with an unadorned story that starts in the middle, goes like a bat out of hell to the end and then is simply over. There is not enough narrative, not enough romancing of the characters, not enough meandering about at the beginning so the reader can get to know and care about the people. As interesting as the events are, if the reader doesn't know and care about the characters, what difference will it make when their worlds fall apart? Answer: so little that even I didn't care very much.

I typically write like Kathleen Turner's character in the movie "Romancing the Stone." I laugh and cry and live the story with the characters. If the tragedy at the end didn't make me cry -- and I have been living with these characters for a month -- then nobody else would possibly care.

Now the question is: how do I fix it? I don't want to just "fill in" back story. I'm afraid that will read like "padding". The details have to be necessary and they have to support and to move the story forward. How can I do that?

As a preliminary matter I decided to try moving the original end to the beginning. That, of course, means that I need to figure out if the original beginning can be salvaged and put someplace else. At this point, it's looking a whole lot like I may scrap the entire thing and start completely over. Same characters. Same overall plot. Start over with the writing-it-down part.

[Aside: I love writing on the computer (due in part to atrocious handwriting and arthritic fingers that cramp when holding a pen), but I discovered something today that is not as much fun about writing on a computer as on paper. I don't have the cathartic pleasure of wadding up the paper and throwing it in the trash!]

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