Sunday, June 13, 2010


Current Project: Unnamed Fantasy
Status: Working on Plot

Welcome to the all-new SaturdaySunday Check-in!


I could blame the permanent time-warp that seems to have descended on my head. Or, I could say that I was stuck in an iron suit while a TDESPHTL* replayed Friday. Or, I could claim I got caught up in the first beautifully sunny day we've had in oh so long. Or...I could just admit that I lost track of the days and didn't realize yesterday was Saturday until this morning. Yikes.

I am, once again, struggling with Plot Creep. My initial idea has grown from a tiny sapling "Save the Prince!" scenario into a giant "Save the World!" sequoia. And while it's a very attractive tree, I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle the forest that goes along with it. (I could struggle along with more forestry analogies, but let's just say I did and skip it, okay?)

You know what I mean though, right? It's never just saving the world. Oh, no. There's political intrigue and spying, strategy and battles. Good vs. Evil. *sigh*

The question is, would I be biting off more than I can write? Is it too ambitious to attempt a Big Book when you, technically, haven't finished any book yet? Should I pare it down and write a simpler story? I don't mean "simple" in a negative way, but as in "fewer intertwining threads."

I do recognize that this is one of the things I've been battling in my ideas--my tendency to want to throw every plot idea I've ever had into the mix. I know I can't do that. Well, not and have a story that makes any kind of sense. But can I handle a story that's complex (rather than just...complicated)? I don't know. I guess there's only one way to find out. Wish me luck, Ma, I'm going in!

Yeah, I'm in one of those moods.

So, how did your week go? You had an extra day--did it come in handy? (oooh, I shoulda used that as my excuse!)

* Gratuitous Tin Man reference—that's a Tri-Dimensional Energy Stored Projected Holographic Time Loop.


Genene Valleau said...

LOL, Debbie! I've discovered that one of the "dangers" of working for yourself is that it doesn't matter what day it is as long as you don't have to be anywhere critical. Some weeks every day is Saturday and some weeks don't have a Saturday at all. :)

Unfortunately, last week didn't have any writing at all on my current projects. Too many other commitments. The progress in that experience is a reminder that "no" is a complete sentence, and that my commitments this week are to myself--writing and finishing up yard projects that are "almost there." (And, of course, hanging out with my doggies. :)

Debbie, I think the beauty in exploring your writing process right now is you can do whatever you want. No contracts or deadlines yet, except the ones you choose to impose on yourself. Yes, that can also be a trap that you never escape from. However, if you give yourself a week or a month or a set amount of time--without guilt--that's comfortable for you to just explore and learn what works for you, that's an incredible gift.

So have fun with your big/complex/complicated idea and pare it down later if it needs to be. It might also be big enough to become a series of books.

Years ago I heard about the "garbage can" test for a manuscript. My apologies but I don't remember what author suggested this. But she said to throw your entire manuscript in the garbage can--not necessarily literally, but in your mind. Then pull out all the elements that really and truly need to be in the story. If you like the hero, pull him out. If the heroine needs work, save only the characteristics that fit the story--or find a new heroine if she's a hopeless cause. Too many secondary characters? Leave all but the ones who really serve a purpose in the story--and make them do double-duty if you can. Got some scenes you love but they don't move the story forward? Leave them in the garbage can. Do this until you have a streamlined, tightly-written story.

Hope everyone has a productive and fun writing week!

Alice Sharpe said...

My week was okay. Spent part of it breaking up 20-22 page chapters into 10-12 pages. Reason? Pacing and the realization that the next proposal is due thirty days after this deadline (smaller chapters now mean smaller chapters through all three books hence half the pages in the proposal.) Diabolical, is it not so? And if by some miracle my editor is reading this, I did NOT just write any of that, it's someone else masquerading as me.

Ahem. Meanwhile, your process sounds painful for you, but it always makes me smile. I love your writing.

I like genene's trash can idea. I can offer something, too, something it's taken me a long time to figure out.

My first several books were scant on plot. The straight romances were short and centered on the two main characters and the mysteries were pretty straight forward. The first time a reviewer complimented my plotting and called it things like "flawless" etc., I was giddy for a month. That was the thing I worried about.

Now I am realizing what makes a book memorable is not how complicated the plot is (almost always) but how complicated the characters are. In the books I write, which are short and fast paced and full of mystery (I hope), it is sometimes hard to develop the people and I think that's a shame.

I have also read it's a symptom of inexperienced writers to keep throwing plot into a book to beef it up. But I think it may be like adding too many spices until the flavor of the end product is muddled. I was watching the Food Network next start contest thingy last weekend. One chef created a complicated plate of food. Wolfgang Puck was one of the judges. He said something along the line, "He needs to understand that fewer ingredients prepared perfectly would result in a better product." And I think I am shifting around to that way of thinking in my own writing.

Let me repeat. You have an intelligent, clever, humorous voice with a lot of insight and wry wit. Write people like you, put them in whatever world you want, cut down a few of those mighty trees so some sunlight can get to the forest floor and plant a few flowers, too.

Huh? I bet you know what I mean. And that's my two cents.

Paty Jager said...

Debbie, this was entertaining! Can't wait for a book! Hint hint. I think you should do the garbage can treatment Genene spoke of. Write the book with all the things you want to throw in then see if it works, or could be made into a series, or go back through and decide what really needs to be in there and toss the rest.

Since your starting on this adventure and aren't sure what is comfortable and works for you, I think that by the time you get mid way you'll know if you're going too big and need to pare it back or if you are on the right path.

And I agree with Alice, plot is good but it's the characters that stay in the mind of the reader after they put the book down.

Alice all my chapters are between 10-15 pages long, and I get comments on my good pacing. I think with your mysteries it is a good idea.

I'm late because five grandchildren and two foster children and my two daughters and my father all descended on me Thursday and left today. So I've been away from the computer and not thinking any writing all weekend. Which kind of plows into I wrote very little last week since we came home from Princeton on Monday night and company showed up Thursday. Tuesday and Wednesday were laundry, baking and preparing for company.

Thursday my final galley for proofing arrived and I'm hoping to get through it today. We'll see. And I hope to have a good word count on the new project for next Saturday Check in.

Katie said...

Well, just look at Eragon by Christopher Paolini! His debut novel was the first in a (sort of) trilogy (that turned into a quad...olgy...) with a huge world and even languages! He's like a less intense Tolkien. So I don't think it's more than you can handle.

If you don't think you can write a "big novel" now, then when? When will it be "then"? Your writing won't improve by much in the future. Maybe your craft will, but your story will come through with enough work and a top notch editor. You are already "there." You can't wait for it.

We can't worry about our work being imperfect, because it's going to be flawed. We should joy in the creation and relish the rewrites. Now is the time for us to be confident and comfortable in our writing and our voices. Believe in your story and in your ability to tell it, no matter the complexity. It just takes time.

Oh, and I believe it you. ^_^