Sunday, May 3, 2015

Update - Best Laid Plans, and all that

I'm sure you're waiting with bated breath for an update on the Writing It All Fast project.  It started well (more below) but an accelerating series of stumbling blocks has caused me to change the schedule.

Problem the First: I very much want to try this "write a novel in 15 days" thing, so I don't want to do half days to keep it going.  I'd rather take days off as a break -- but not more than two days off in a week.  So I've decided that postponement is better than muddling through. (I think I can restart Thursday.)

Problem the Second: I suddenly realized that I have way more going on this week than I meant to.  Most of the individual items aren't enough to throw off the writing day -- but I figured out they are doubling up on me.  But I realized that if I rescheduled a few things so that I can fill those days with kerfuffle -- in particular the podcast for next week -- I will be clear for about two weeks.  Sort of.  Maybe.  (Best laid plans can oft gang agley.)

Problem the Third (and perhaps most important): I have discovered an intermediary -- and necessary -- step between the "Xtreme Oultining" and the "Write Like The Wind" stages.  Specifically, it's about finding the voice of the story.  I am glad I chose this book to go first, because it requires a voice that doesn't come naturally to me, therefore, it made it fully obvious what I need to do.

The upshot is, until Thursday, I plan to visit doctors and deal with repair guys and go out of town, and record and edit most of next week's podcast ... and also work on the voice of this story.

Progress Report - Stumbling Over Voice

Day 0

So Friday's launch actually went pretty well. In the morning, as I expected, I finished up the outline. I would still like to do a little work on the end, but I think that's reasonable to put off until I have this half written.

Went to Avengers: Age of Ultron.  It was fab.  Not perfect, and not better than any other Marvel Movie ever made, but I think we've reached the density of story here where it's more important to tell the story than to make bigger things blow up or have heftier smashing.  The standard action comic movie is pretty much at max "smash" level now.  As you expect with a Whedon movie, there are some WONDERFUL small payoff twists that are just utter delights.  These are sprinkled in with the larger twists that we know will be there.

Then, in the evening I settled in to write at least 2000 words to get the story going.

And I did.  I wrote 2400 words actually.

They weren't utter dreck either.

And yet....

It did not sparkle where it needed to sparkle.  The best stuff was the stuff that didn't fit the tone of the story.  The opening paragraph came off a little 'hard-boiled' -- Chandleresque description.  Then other elements were "This happened, then this happened" prose.

But those things are fixable. All stories are awkward getting out of the gate.  A bigger problem was that the writing went very slow -- and the whole point of this exercise was to speed up the process.  The problem went back to voice -- I could see what was happening, and didn't stumble over details or have trouble making decisions, but there was no voice in my head telling me how to translate that into words.

I figured that would fix itself as I sank into the story.

But then over night I started redoing that opening page in my head, and I realized that maybe this needed a first person narrator.  I should pitch what I did the day before and start over.

Day 1

Saturday went way better.  I hit 5400 words without breaking a sweat.  I kinda wanted to go for 6k, since I was going over the same ground for part if it, but that didn't happen.  And I wrote fast, until I hit one critical moment, when I started writing sideways.  I couldn't get the prose through the door.  I kept moving, kept trying, but I was doing what Dean Wesley Smith calls "walking to the story."  Just describing the mundane things that the characters were doing to keep momentum while I tried to get the story to continue.

Problem: I don't do regular romance.  I have never written an ordinary everywoman who is attracted to a cute guy just because he's a cute guy.  And because she's not looking for romance and the story pulls her away from that attraction.... I could not get the story to move on, because the attraction didn't happen.  And the attraction is kind of a foundational element of what happens.

The other problem, and probably a bigger one, is that I don't do "everywoman" very well. But that I learned today....

Day 2

Kerfuffle destroyed half the day, but when I finally sat down I decided to try a scene where the heroine deals with an annoying nemesis.  It was great.  She was sassy.  I was hitting my groove. And then I realized, this is not the heroine that lives in this story.

She might be that heroine's big sister. She might be the person the heroine wants to be, or imagines she is secretly, but honestly, I don't think so.  Or to put it in Avengers-speak: she is not Tony Stark.  She might be Captain America. She might even be Agent Coulson, in the earlier pre-death-and-reserrection iteration.

That's the thing about Classic Suspense.  At her very core, the main character is ordinary -- and any greatness that seeps out needs to come from soul of ordinariness.

And this overlaps with the classic romantic heroine -- the kind who may have resources, but she still needs a hero. The classic suspense hero isn't someone who defeats the bad guys so much as holds them off until the cavalry gets its act together. Because it's not his job to be a hero -- he's filling in because somebody has to. And I think it's reasonable for that to apply to a romance heroine.

I tend to write proactive, independent people.  But I don't think all characters need to be that way.  There are perfectly lovely helpless people who also have gumption.  Melanie from Gone With The Wind would be one extreme.  Many 1940s heroines also qualify, even if they don't know how to fight effectively.

And this particular story, imho, needs somebody soft.  And even though I know how to write a soft-but-likeable secondary character, I don't know how to write a soft protagonist...

Well, except for one -- Mick McKee is a kind of soft protagonist.  He may be a gunslinger, but he also makes a decent damsel in distress.

This heroine might end up being a female Mick.  But,this week, while I deal with all this kerfuffle, I'm going to be auditioning some 1940's style heroines (and others) and see if I can come up with not only a good sense of this character, but the range of characteristics that I find appealing in a modern setting -- for future reference.  And I may talk about that in a future post.

See you in the funny papers.

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