characters / pov / writers resources / writers tips / writing

How I’m Stuck in My Book’s WTF Moment

My writing isn’t going as well as I’d thought it would this summer. I figured with two months to do nothing much but writingwrite, I’d zip through my rough draft, smooth out the flaws and have my book publisher-ready by August.

Here’s what’s really happening: I’m constantly stuck on characterization. Each new scene is like walking through mud that sucks at my feet. Yeah, that’s me over there, in the muck, staring at my feet, wondering if I’ll ever move faster than slow.

Every book has it’s WTF moment. This is mine.

It took me nine months to write the draft. The pace was a couple of hours a day, more on weekends  and sometimes days off in between to hurry through things like work and life. I tried to keep my characters true to themselves. Don’t get me wrong–I know it’s important. It just proved impossible (I can use that absolute now that I’m looking at the result of my efforts) when I was distracted twenty-two hours a day by a world outside of my story’s. The result is characters that aren’t honest. They don’t act based on their motivations, their passions, their history. If they were my friends, I’d dump them because they have no core.

That’s not good. It makes them unpredictable in a bad way. Not the uniqueness of people that are fun to be around because you never know what they’re going to do, but the oddity of people who act crazy when rational is required. The former are fun to hang around. The latter you avoid like the clap.

Part of the problem is complexity. If this was in first person, I don’t think the time off would have mattered. I could reread the character’s bio, check out the last few scenes and be back in the groove. But I have four vastly different characters, each with a significant number of scenes in their POV. Every time I pop back into their brains, I have to remember what they were thinking last time, their emotional baggage, what they want out of the plot and this particular scene, which is different from what everyone else wants.

Hmmm…. It doesn’t sound hard now that I’m writing it down for you. Well, there’s more. That, I could probably have fixed in a few run-throughs. But a character is more than characterization. The caste of a story determines where the plot goes and how it gets there. You take Churchill out of WWII, that war would have been different. Even if the end result was the same, the aplomb with which Britain reached it would have differed. Fixing my characters means I also must adjust the plot twists. The climax and end are the same–bad guys lose, good guys win–but the path they took is not.

So here I am, playing MacGyver. I started at Page One the day school let out. I’m about half way through. The plot has changed significantly for the better these past three weeks. The good news is, there were spots where I didn’t know how to get from A to B. Now, as I am my character, it’s obvious.

The bad news is, I have so much to fix!

I wanted to title this post, How I Got Out of My Book’s WTF Moment’, but I don’t know that answer yet.

Stay tuned.

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5 thoughts on “How I’m Stuck in My Book’s WTF Moment

  1. I’m currently in the rough draft process of my manuscript and, well, I know what you’re going through. I also have different POV’s in my novel and it really is hard moving from each one. I really thought I’d be finished by now, but I’m not even close. Then, I get frustrated and that’s when the writer’s block hits.

    I’m glad I’m not alone out there with this problem..because it’s horrible…

    • It’s so good to hear you say that. A kindred spirit! Ah. So we shall keep each other going. My goal is September. Then the Query Letters. Oh, dread.

      I like your thoughtful blog posts. You have a writer’s soul.

  2. Hi there. No one counts the days of summer quite like the writer in you … :-)

    Here’s another article on voice/POV that might be useful in some small way (http://novelmatters.blogspot.com/2010/07/project-art-of-voice-in-fiction.html).

    Have you read Scott Turow’s long-awaited novel Innocent? I have never seen a novel constructed this way, with POV all over the map. I’m plowing ahead nonetheless, but he sure is breaking (or perhaps recreating) all the rules.

    You might want to take a look at his novel to see how he’s handled the issues you’re struggling through, and to see what a successful author is getting away with.

    Take care.

    Cheri

  3. The process of creating can be very painful. My heart goes out to all of you. But one thing is certain, nobody knows what is going on except you. The writer is in charge of everything. Persevere and everything will fall into place.

  4. I love Scott Turow, Cheri. I will have to check that book out. The good news is, I got through my WTF moment. Thank goodness! As mywordlyobsessions said, it was painful! But I was in charge and I powered through. Now, it’s going better than I had expected.

    We’ll see, though. I have about 20% left of this draft. Then I start over.

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