Thursday, April 17, 2008
When You Think You Know Everything
"Ask Newmann, He Knows" from Art.com
This happened to me when I wrote In Between Men ... I went through two full drafts and with each draft something died inside me when I hit Act II. But I was persistent back then and thought I could force the story to go exactly the way I wanted it to. Finally, I realized two things: stories must change and evolve (for me, anyway) and Act II is the place where bad ideas go to die.
Last week, the same thing happened with The Guy Upstairs. I finished the first draft, spent a lot of time fleshing out a revision plan and then got to work. I was cruising along through Act I, but with that dragging feeling in my gut that I ignored because I was convinced that I had the story down. But as I neared Act II, the threads unraveled and it became more and more apparent that the story wasn't working. Sure enough, it died at page 100.
But I'm glad it happened now as opposed at the end of a tepid second draft. With In Between Men, I had to go back into a third draft where I discovered that I wasn't telling the right story. (Originally, it was about Isa fighting for custody of her son.) The story that needed to be told was about a woman who falls victim to her own recklessness and yet, without that recklessness she would never have changed her life. This discovery made the writing more difficult, not to mention longer.
When The Guy Upstairs ran aground, I realized that I had better do a writer's version of stop, drop and roll. I stopped writing and went outside to work on my garden (we planted four types of tomatoes, squash and herbs). Within two hours of refusing to think about the book, I realized what The Guy Upstairs is really about. But I wouldn't take notes for two days because the other thing I've learned is that once you start writing it down, the committee upstairs starts hacking away at your babies.
I've been writing the new story since Sunday and the idea has been gaining momentum. The committee grumbles when I sit down to write (which it always does), but my gut tingles with excitement and the heroine's voice becomes much more distinct and alive. I've written about twenty pages of new material and I think this is it.
Or, I'm full of it and still have no idea what the hell I'm doing.
I guess I'll know for certain when I reach page 100.