For those of you who have been following me (or not), I’ve been laboring over my first novel. First it was to eliminate those pesky adverbs. Then I had to cut down the usage of “family” from ten thousand times in 510 pages to a couple dozen times. Then it was to cut down the 510 pages and 175K words into something more manageable – and palatable – like 100K words.
Now I’m into changing parts two and three. Developmental changes, oy vay.
Part one isn’t so bad. It’s horrible for my character, and probably still too purple-prosey and too long, but it’s one helluva lot better than the original. Now, however, I have to take my main character and somehow have to dig her out of her quicksand.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. I’ve been reading various novels for inspiration, one a weekend, and trying to gain some insight as to the process of weaving stories and subplots into my own story.
This was easier to do in a novel like Virtually Yours. There I had seven people who were tied together in friendship, all over the country but with individual stories paralleling the main plot. It took a little plotting, and I may be wrong, but I found the process of laying out the book much easier in that case.
When you have a first-person novel like Finding Cadence, it’s different. You are working in one voice, one point of view. It can be done, but revealing the underlying threads is a much more difficult task. This book isn’t so much about situations, it’s about the inside(s) of the heads of the people involved.
This is where brainstorming really helps. My critique group was quite helpful. They were awed by the first part, but the first couple of chapters of the second part were too depressing, the MC becoming so much of a drag that they began not to like her anymore. I don’t need assistance with grammar; I need a major shift in plot.
I’ve seen it done on Twitter. I follow a writer who posts her plots as though she’s talking out loud. Some people respond, too! It’s interesting to watch.
Other writers – especially those who don’t know you very well, or even those who do – are extremely helpful, and not just for the technical expertise. Even if you don’t give them the actual novel to consume, because let’s face it, we’re all busy – writing, of course! – you can kick around different scenarios with fellow writers. “What if this happens? What would be the reaction?”
Brainstorming is necessary. We as artists are too close to our work, and the perspective of fresh eyes is always a positive thing. You just can’t use the excuse “But this happened in real life!” It might have, but honestly, real life is rather boring.
And so yesterday afternoon, in between planting potatoes and waiting for the appliance repairman to fix my half-working cook top, I decided to email Mr. Ed and run my problem by him. He’s a nice guy and I warned him I was looking for free advice. My Cadence needs a turning point, an ‘ah-ha’ moment, something that will get her off her duff to begin making positive steps toward growth. Her story needs strong threads interwoven so that she will rise victorious and become likeable.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do, but I can tell you this: the exchange was invigorating! It made me think, and gave me the ambition to forge ahead. Forging is good. I, like Cadence, was stuck in a quagmire.
Time to escape.