I sent the first 14,000 words to Lani and Krissie, and Lani got back to me with damn near superhuman speed. And her conclusion was (my words, not hers), it’s not baked yet.
Okay, we all knew that, but I needed to hear it. I know I knew it because I kept saying that I was in love with the sound of my own voice, but as Lani pointed out, the problem is that I still haven’t found who Nita and Nick are. I know what they want, but it’s not on the page and worse, they’re not on the page. Everything I’ve written is set-up, but I’m not writing story yet. I’m following my nose as I reveal the world of the story to myself.
This is a good thing. This is a necessary thing in the process of writing story. I don’t know what my story is until I see what I’ve written. The transition of the story in my head to the story on paper–especially actually printing the draft out so I can see it for real–is a huge transformation. It’s never going to be as great on the page as it was in my head, but the page is what’s real.
I think at the bottom of all this is the question: What is my relationship to this story? Am I just fooling around with it to keep from real work, or is this a story that deserves commitment? If it’s the Real Thing, I need to stop playing fast and loose with it, even in the first draft, and treat it seriously as a WiP. That’s harder because the whole thing started by goofing around because I was annoyed by a TV show. It was play, and then I got caught up in it.
So looking at this now, the question is, “Is this real?” Is this something I’m going to invest in, hunker down for months in, even though it’s a supernatural story which generally isn’t my strongest genre? Because if not, the time for playing around is over and I need to get back to work.
I’m trying to think of why I started the other stories I’ve written. Maybe This Time started because I’d wanted to do my own version of Turn of the Screw since my first grad degree in the 80s; that nameless heroine bugged the hell out of me. That was a terrible reason to pick a story, but once I found Alice, I had a real story.
I can’t remember why Bob and I decided to Wild Ride.
Agnes and the Hitman I remember vividly. It was our second book, and we each picked a character we wanted to write. He wanted to do a hitman, and I wanted to do a food writer because my cousin, Russ Parsons, is one of the best and most successful food writers in the world (easy research, also I’d get to talk to Rusty). That worked really well because they were so different, so the idea came with its own built in crunch.
Don’t Look Down was the same process: He wanted to write a Green Beret and I wanted to do somebody involved in movies since Mollie was working on movie sets at the time. The crunch there didn’t work quite as well, but that was our first book and we were still getting the hang of it.
Before that was Bet Me, which was a STUPID premise in a book I’d finished in the early nineties that Jen bought with my promise that I’d rewrite. A fast polish morphed into a year-long rewrite that became a completely different book based on fairy tales.
I could go on, but the takeaway I’m getting from this is that it doesn’t really matter where the story comes from because it becomes its own thing as I write it. No matter what my intentions are–Welcome to Temptation was supposed to be about sexual freedom for women and became about mothering instead, go figure–the Girls in the Basement are hard at work in the background, ignoring what I thinking I’m writing and sending up what I need to write.
And I think I might need to write this book. The fact that it’s fun is secondary–they’re ALWAYS fun in the beginning–but the fact that I like the world and I love the supporting cast and I understand how the supernatural works, and that the biggest problem is that I don’t know my heroine, hero, or story yet, all of that is classic first draft status stuff.
One of the most illuminating things Lani wrote was this: “You can afford to move slower, to have Nita investigate the reality of her world as well as Vinnie’s murder. Have her in search of the truth, rather than just passively receiving it.” I thought the problem was that I was moving too slow, that I need to cut four thousand words from the set-up, but I think she’s right, that I’m moving too fast, that I want to get to the partnership without putting the legs under it. That maybe what this 14,000 words needs is not four thousand less, but fifteen thousand more, so that the end of the chunk that I have now becomes the end of the first act.
I still think it starts with the first scene I have. But I really need to look at this first chunk and at Nick and Nita. I know what they want, but the reader doesn’t. That’s a big, big problem. I know that Nick is literally dead, not breathing, deceased, past his sell-by date, defunct, and I know that Nita is spiritually dead, and that they’re going to bring each other back to life, but none of that is on the page. It’s the reason the second scene is so awful. I knew it was awful, I just couldn’t see why. I know how to fix this.
The big question is, am I going to stop flirting and commit or am I going back to my steady, decades long involvement with You Again? Because this is the part where it stops being fun and becomes real work.
So today, while I haul all the stuff I dumped in the office from the bedroom so I can take that progress picture, I’m going to be cogitating. It would be smarter to go back to You Again, but I’m starting to think that spring might be a great time to write about a woman rising from psychic death and bringing a dead guy with her.
So here’s a question: So much of this stage is waffling around, making a decision and then reversing it. I’m not sure that’s much fun on the blog. There are other things to write about, definitely finishing the office which is going to take me the rest of spring and probably the rest of summer because I’m slow. There’s the Character chapter of Writing/Romance I haven’t started yet. There are TV shows I want to write about, Agent Carter and The Abominable Bride and Limitless and Grimm and Person of Interest which is definitely ending this spring so now is the time to write about it. I’m not sure how valuable posts that keep saying, “No, that’s not it, nope, not ready yet” are, and I’m sure they must be frustrating. So what do you think? We have such a great small community here that I’m good with whatever what you want; we’ve been together a long time and I have faith you’ll be honest if this stuff is boring and annoying. Believe me I can take criticism; I’ve been a published writer for over twenty years, I’m damn near bullet-proof.
And now I must go get the bedroom stuff out of the office because I’m two weeks behind on that progress picture.