Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Making that judgement call

Current Project: Derby book
Status: meh

There's one question on my mind in regards to writing as of late - how do we make the judgment call that our project is worth writing and has enough substance to contain a book? Last winter I began working on a roller derby book. I had the major points fairly well plotted (or at least known in my brain somewhat). I felt I knew my characters well. But it got to a point where it felt too convoluted, just didn't seem to work well.

In February I went to the Michael Hauge workshop by RCRW and thought it may work better to make that one the second book and do a different first book. A librarian derby girl. Seemed to have a better hook and I could lay the groundwork for the second. But recently a couple of friends pointed out a few great things: 1) a first book shouldn't be written to set up the next; 2) the derby wasn't as integral to the librarian book idea as the original idea, and that's what makes it extra catchy; 3) the original idea is just more fun.

Sometimes it takes hearing that from someone else to justify the idea, you know? It didn't seem like a good idea to me, felt a bit contrived somehow. But I guess we all think that about our own ideas from time to time?

That got me thinking that writing just can't be a solitary profession. Just because at the end of the day we have to sit by ourselves and write, doesn't mean we should reach out to others and ask questions, brainstorm, or just chat. For me, I often don't reach out to brainstorm because I know how busy people are and it feels like I'm inconveniencing them. On the other hand, if someone wants to brainstorm with me I'm thrilled to do it. So logically...if I'm happy to brainstorm with others maybe they would be happy to do so with me.

Sometimes I wish I were as logical as Temperance Brennan! (Yes, I finally started watching Bones and I LOVE it!)


Paty Jager said...

Tough question, but I am two thumbs up on brainstorming. I don't see how a writer can write a book without brainstorming bits if not all of it with another writer. I think we all need to have some outside influence to help our books along.

Even if you have a great idea sometimes it takes someone else to help you make all the GMC come out into the open and see if the project merits a full book or a short story.

No, I haven't made my 2000 words yet this morning but I remembered it was the start of the month and was updating my blog when I saw this.

It's always slower getting into a book when you haven't written on it in several days.

Good luck, Lisa! I think a librarian derby girl is a great contrast!

Alice Sharpe said...

I agree with what you said about brainstorming. Running ideas through someone else is fun and informative, and it's also important to hear your ideas out loud, to gauge if you can support where you're going with a story or if it's a dog chasing its tail in your head.

My best advice, and that which I try to follow, is to trust my gut. Eventually, you develop instincts that help you figure out if you're at a dead end or a tough spot and which idea should be abandoned and which just needs a little work (and self control) to slog through the slow parts. Feeing yourself from the worry of publishing, putting that energy into the joy of creating, seems to me a much more productive use of time, especially at the beginning when you are taking what you know intellectually and applying it it your craft.

Someone take my soap box -- please!!! And Lisa, I love to brainstorm as I suspect you know, and I will always endeavor to be helpful and you know where I am.

Genene Valleau said...

Hi, Lisa! Because I do detailed plotting, it's pretty easy for me to know if my ideas have enough substance for a full-length novel. X number of pages = X number of chapters = X number of scenes. If the numbers don't add up, I know I need to come up with more substance for the story.

I don't really do a lot of brainstorming with others, as I tend not to finish sentences when my mind is working on a story--the mind is going in too many directions for the mouth to keep up, if you can believe that. :)

Of course, writing a novella that's connected with two other novellas is an exception. The three of us have to brainstorm so our stories all fit together!

Where I really like the input of others is when I'm almost finished with a story, so my critique partners can point out where I've not explained things well enough or have too many characters or something just seems "off."

I agree with Alice that you develop a gut instinct for writing that lets you know if a story is working or not. I made a lot of false starts and hit a lot of deadends when I was first learning to write a novel. However, as others talked about their writing process and shared their forms, I developed my own process. As with everything--use what works for you, and it sounds like brainstorming really is helpful for you.

wavybrains said...

Write the original derby book! I am dying for that book, and I have so many facebook friends who are also fans of Derby that I would LOVE to pass it on to. WRITE. WRITE. WRITE. And email me if you need brainstorming help. I have no brain power for my own projects, but I actually enjoy brainstorming MORE for others :) :) :)

Lisa Leoni said...

Paty, thanks!! Maybe at some point I can make the librarian thing work :)

Alice, thank you!! Great points :)

Genene, thanks for the tips! I like your process, I wish I could follow-through on plotting that thoroughly.

Wavy, hahahaha thank you! :D