Often when a I write a book, I also have a diary that runs alongside. In fact in some cases, as you may have noticed, the diary becomes the actual story! In this diary I explore my ideas about the story, my hopes, my fears, any problems I am having with the story: maybe the characters are doing their own thing too much, or the plot has a million holes in it. I explore and offload my emotional state with regard to life, writing and the current WIP (work in progress).
Here’s an extract from 2009 when I was working on a story I have still so far failed to complete, but which is called Miss Davenport Presents. The action of the story takes place in a club, and Miss Aurora Davenport is the proprietress and a transgender male-to-female woman of towering proportions and savvy business skills. She is having trouble with local businessmen trying to close her place down as it’s getting too much media attention and too much of the area’s revenue. To complicate things further, her close friend brings in his brother to help out with the situation, and he and Aurora have some ‘history’.
(10/04/2009) John is messed up – he doesn’t really want Aurora but he is curious about what it would be like to be with her. Also they have history and a past friendship that draws him. Clearly he is tempted to at least explore his feelings – and his curiosity – a bit further, but then his other brother comes on the scene to further complicate the plot. Now John doesn’t know what to make of his feelings of anger and jealousy, and I don’t know how or where to direct him.
Where to go with this story?? I don’t know if it’s going to go the distance – I just can’t think what I want to say about these people, other than it seemed important to me to present people who lead what some people view as lives of ‘transgressive sexuality’ and to present them in a way which shows them to be tender, profound, and sincere. I want to show deep caring relationships between family members as well as lovers, and I also want to portray the sometimes fluid nature of sexuality. I want to write passionately about passion.
But the whole thing feels very clunky – too many characters. Plus I know I’ve over-explained everything – still it is only a first draft. I worry I’ve forgotten how to write – it’s just not working for me. I know I’ve only written 6000-odd words, so it’s very much early days but it’s been such a struggle. Maybe I’m trying too hard?? And usually I have to write 40,000 or 50,000 words before I know if the story is going to work. My anxiety hot me rather early in this story. I’m thinking, this is the worst crap I’ve written in forever, and where’s the poetry, where’s the soul, where’s the beautiful, beautiful language, the power to persuade and reveal?? Where is it??
(a few weeks later I wrote:) Ooh this might even be starting to come together. I’ve been re-reading my notes for The Ice King (a different, short story) and there would appear to be useful link between the two ideas, just need to think what to amalgamate and what to exclude – use for another story. The rough notes for the disco scene would appear to be particularly relevant.
Still not really any further forward with some of the basic questions I raised earlier but at least I’m not feeling (quite) so miserable about the damn story now.
But what is going to happen to the corporate–executive-thriller that was the background to the story of the Ice King?? So maybe should keep these two ideas very, very separate? Huff. Don’t know what to do. Double huff.
The story is still ‘out there’ in the ether, bugging me, prodding me and wanting to be written, but I am still thinking it over. For me, as a pantser, I hate too much planning. I hate too much structure. Structure and planning stifle me. Sometimes I meditate on a story for years, a decade even. I have learned not to push too hard, learned a lot even since I wrote this diary extract in 2009. Now, I try not to worry. I’ve always got loads of ideas in the ‘melting pot’. When it is the right time, I hope I will be ready to write this story.
If you’re interested you can read some of the draft here – by the way, it’s a bit cheeky!: Miss Davenport Presents
3 thoughts on “Finding my way – the writer’s quandary”
Great post, Caron. Your comment “I worry I’ve forgotten how to write”, made me smile, I know the feeling only too well. It especially hits if I take more than a few days off writing fiction. I’ve kept a journal for years and it helps to sometimes look back and see the frustrations that an earlier piece of work caused and know that eventually they were worked through. As a fellow pantser I think the problems often arise because I am trying to force the characters to act in a certain way rather than allow them to develop instinctively. Journaling about issues I’m having with characters certainly helps pinpoint the problem, but I find you can’t rush it.
For me it goes in cycles of feeling ridiculously confident to the point of arrogance, followed by the writing blues! I’ve mellowed over the years and learned to ride the waves up and down without too much agonising. Journals are a great help, aren’t they! Plus they have the benefit of saving our long-suffering partners from too much of an ear-bashing!
I’m not sure what I’d do without a journal……