Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Get Back!

by Hannah

The dilemma was this: As I waited for comments on Novel One, I took more than a step into the world of Novel Two. This was not a good thing to do. Then again... well, let me explain.

There didn't seem to be a conflict even as the Group shared reactions to Novel One; despite their concerns that they'd overloaded me, I was excited. They liked a great deal about the revision, yet wanted more. There were more layers to be revealed, opportunities to go deeper, richer yet, they said, and I agreed. I left the meeting in good spirits despite the work ahead.

When I got home, I started to think through the changes. I could add that character I'd debated from my female protagonist’s background. I can kill off someone, maybe two? ("Kill, kill, kill!” as said by Arlo Guthrie in Alice’s Restaurant reverberated in my head.) I could expand my main character in a particular way. There was only one hurdle, plot-wise, that needed to be gotten around in order to make these things happen. I let my mind go blank…

and in stepped Novel Two characters, who’d been pushing into my thoughts for some months, only to be told to remain on the doorstep. Until recently. With the draft on the Group’s laps, I’d welcomed them inside, chatted with them, one by one and sometimes as a group. They showed me flashes of moments and story arcs, dutifully transcribed on 3x5 cards.

Suddenly, so close to getting Novel One pushed to the Next Level, I found myself uninterested in it. The main character annoyed me, no longer dashing and intriguing. Why had I ever wanted to get to know him at all? Clearly, if I felt this way, readers would, too. Well, so what, then, if I moved on to Novel Two? These new people were so engaging. Tempting.

I became frustrated, impatient. Why had I spent so much time investing in this character, this story? What about it all would make me so willing to give up on it with the end in sight?

Epiphany moment.

I pushed the Novel Two gang out the front door to consider this. Why was the story not clicking for me, right now? What did I need from the story, from the characters? What would make me fall in love with them all over again, to reinvest myself in their lives? In the answer came the solution to the hurdle.

Despite their banging on the windows, their complaints about the drop in temperature outside, the Novel Two folks will need to amuse themselves without my attentions for a while longer. It will be worth their wait, I know, given everything I have learned from Novel One. It certainly will be worth my wait, and I don't think I'll be waiting all that long.


Judy Merrill Larsen said...


This is so similar to what I've recently discovered (and what I'm going to blog about this week!)--when I find I'm stuck with my characters it's because I probably haven't been listening to them. Or, I haven't written enough to know them as well as I need to. I'm so glad you didn't give up on Novel #1--and I can't wait until I can read the final product.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

This process is a never-ending learning experience! I think I did get myself "above" the story when I revised last time, as I got decent reviews from the Group on the elements you can see from up there. However, I'd missed the 3-D aspects needed to make it fulfilling. Cannot wait to read your post, as your insights will be particuarly timely for my needs!


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

3-D aspects, ooh, I love that.

FYI-I just posted.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Anyone who is stopping by today, go read Judy's post! The sewing analogy is perfect.


Larramie said...

Don't you love when the characters tell YOU the story?!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

See? You did it. Your characters are so real they are trying to tell you what to do. They're alive, they're thriving. And they can wait outside til you are ready for them. You are going to love novel one.

In my writing for television news investigative reporting,there's alwyas the moment, just before the video editing, when I think: holy moley. Who ever thought this was a good story? (Even though it was me.)

Always. I mean--always. And then I think back to the time I first had the idea--when I was thrilled and delighted, and it was new, and I remember that moment. ANd I think: oh yeah. I love this.

So do that. Then look at your novel one again. Aha. That's why you loved it in the first place. That's still just as valid. Even more.

Judy--I'm on the way to visit!

Anonymous said...

Same dilemma here. the 3 D in my case DD as both main characters refuse to tell me their story.
I'm still invested in them. I love my story; but those damn pesky nitwits just won't talk.
Off to Judy's.


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

So true, Larramie! We hear it over and over and still forget, until our characters whack us over the heads to remind us! Hank -- love the perspective from the news POV. It's the little moments that remain constant between other professions and fiction. Liz Walker once said (roughly), "Tell me what journey you want my audience to take not as they watch the story, but after." The 3-D comes when you truly shape the journey? Good luck, Usman. It is so hard; if you still love them, they'll start to whisper to you, I'm sure!


Carleen Brice said...

Ah...I think you heard the voice of the "easy book." At least that's what always happens to me. A little voice whispers in my ear to abandon the one that requires all that thinking and work when this one will practically write itself. Good for you for ushering Novel Two folks out the door until you're really ready for them and getting back to work on Novel One.