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 write, 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.