Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Work In Progress Wednesday

Well, I'm a fan of disorganized structure.
"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." ~Anaïs Nin

I am a great fan of structure (probably because I impose very little upon myself in everyday life). So I am attempting to give this blog some structure. So I’m declaring Wednesdays to be focused on my WIPs, whatever they may be at the moment. If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen some of my whining about the 5 WIPs I have been working on lately. I know. Bad idea. Don’t do it, kids!!

At any rate, I’ve gone back to just one for now because I JUST CAN’T LIVE THAT WAY. But the single MS I’ve chosen to focus on is giving me fits. FITS.

It occurs to me—the subtitle of this post really ought to be In Which I Moan About This Book I’m Writing. Cuz that’s what I’m going to do.

Writing is hard even when you know exactly what you’re doing. But right now, trying to write this particular story feels like trying to select the perfect mother’s day gift at a jewelry store in complete and utter darkness while wearing boxing gloves and trying to hold an agitated howler monkey under one arm.

 In other words, darn near impossible.

"I want to write books that unlock the traffic jam in everybody's head." ~John Updike

Me too, John, but first I need to figure out the snarl in my own.

I guess this is part of the process. And also, to some degree, I feel like I never learn. If any of you haven’t read Hyberbole and a Half’s amazing post on this subject, do so now.

Anyway, I say I never learn because I’ve been here before. The last MS I completed, which is currently in a stalled state of revision (hey, DaVinci hardly ever finished anything either!), gave me the same sort of trouble.

Ultimately my biggest problem wasn’t plot (I figured that out partly on the fly and partly through an agonizing process of outlining).

It wasn’t the matter of writing itself, although you know my thoughts on that subject (I’m looking at you, dead elephant carcass).

It was the characters.                                                           

I have a whole blog post cooking on this subject (maybe I’ll post it soon). But basically the characters weren’t coming together right. It was mostly a matter of motivation. What was driving them? What were they trying to do? I didn’t have it figured out at the time, and until I knew what I was doing I was just spinning my proverbial wheels in the mud.

“Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

So I guess that’s what I’m doing now. I sit and I write a little bit and then I read it and grimace and then I eat ice cream cake. It’s a deadly spiral, folks. So right now I’m mulling the story over. I’m thinking about the characters and their wants and needs. What is driving them? What needs to be driving them?  I’m on a quest to figure out exactly who my MC Shana is, and exactly what she wants. Some of this I will discover as I write the book, and some of it I already have.

I was going to post a small bit of the current MS since this is WIP Wednesday and I want to do more than just complain about it, but I can’t find a single segment that doesn’t need hefty editing.


  1. I know how you feel. It's easier to come up with cool stuff and nice world building than fleshing out a person's motivation and direction in life. I end up having my character react to a lot of things happening in the world around them.

    Then by the end it feels like the character is just a whipping boy instead of a person who is growing and learning. They just end up being put their paces by the writer instead of having interactions as a part of the larger world.

    It is very tricky to not fall into that trap.

  2. @Weathered I agree ... very tricky. I have to work on the reactionary character aspect a lot myself.

  3. I just read a really good post on characters over here:

  4. @Jaimie Ooo thanks for sharing ...

  5. @Jaimie Your vlogging makes me want to do it too! Must... resist...

  6. Character motivation is so key but so ethereal. It can be really tough to pin down.

    P.S. Don't forget to come back and check the comments today, you're getting some great advice.

  7. I don't know, dude, you could write a whole story around your vlogs with zombies or something.

  8. ice cream cake makes everything better! :)

  9. @Matthew The comments have been great :-) And yeah, character motivation can be extremely elusive sometimes.

    @Jaimie haha!

    @aspiring_x yes it does!!


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