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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Writing Tip: Know When it's Time to Change Your Story

"There are some books which refuse to be written. They stand their ground year after year and will not be persuaded. It isn't because the book is not there and worth being written -- it is only because the right form of the story does not present itself. There is only one right form for a story and if you fail to find that form the story will not tell itself."

- Mark Twain


I had been struggling with a manuscript, TSOF, for over a year. I really love the first third of the manuscript, but the rest kind of limps along, sometimes working well, other times leaving me with a huge, "What the?" I dropped this project for a bit since I've been inspired by my historical fiction WIP, but now I've had some time away, I've gotten a new perspective about TSOF.

The progression of this manuscript has been interesting, as my critique buddies could attest to. TSOF was originally narrated in third person, and it really didn't work well. A couple rewrites later, I played around with the narration of different characters, and voila! The winning narrator was my protagonist, Michael, who I dearly love. Part of the reason is he is inspired by my nephew, Michael, who passed away a few years ago. Lest you think I'm going to get all weepy, fear not. The main reason I adore my character is he is all the bits of boyhood I like--a creative problem solving, curious, loyal, thoughtful teen with a flair for adventure.

My problem has been this...I was trying to write this manuscript as a fantasy adventure, and the more I've been working on revisions, the more I'm sure it doesn't work as a whole. All the sweat hours put in. And. Nothing.

Which is why reading Mark Twain's quote is so apropo. It gives me a bit of solace and great advice that only the right story will tell itself. So, back to the drawing board. I'm going to keep positive since the first third of the manuscript is staying. It's just the rest that needs to be majorly scrapped.

So, how are you doing with your writing?

10 comments:

Christine M said...

I'm sitting here right now trying to figure out which of two stories to concentrate on for my next WIP. At first I thought it would be my historical fiction. And then I realized I have the start of a cute MG story I'd like to finish. Unfortunately all I have of that is 1000 words and some vague ideas.

So, I'm trying to come up with some concrete ideas before I start writing.

I've been revising so much lately that's it's a little weird to be looking at something fresh.

So - that's where I am with my writing. Thank you for asking.

PJ Hoover said...

You're being to hard of TSOF.

But, since you mentioned it, I keep thinking about your historical fiction WIP. It is such a great story, and we're only two chapters in! I can't wait to read more :) Just this morning I caught myself thinking about it.

And my writing is going OK. Trying to find the voice again. I figure if I keep at it, it will come.

Sara said...

I admire you for serving the story, and not yourself. I think, somehow, that each piece of writing we do changes something about ourselves, peels off a layer or unearths something we didn't know was there. In that sense, no writing is ever wasted, because it all shapes us into the writer the next story needs us to be.

Sometimes I think my manuscripts are channeling David Bowie from Labyrinth: "I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say, and I will be your slave."

HipWriterMama said...

Chris,
Good luck with your new WIP!
---

Tricia,
Thanks for your kind words. I figure I could always use the other parts in another project. So it's not all a loss.

You're right, keep writing, the voice will come. Good luck!
---

Sara,
What you say has great truth and wisdom. Thank you.

SamRiddleburger said...

Twain is right, but it's too bad he couldn't see that Tom Sawyer Abroad fit into this category.

Little Willow said...

I write when the characters talk to me, and then set the story aside when the characters get silent, letting them have their space until they come back to me.

"When you love something, set it free.
If it comes back to you, it's yours.
If it doesn't, it never was."

laurasalas said...

I'm struggling with form/genre, too. I think my recently rejected collection/novel in verse is too much of a "problem novel." I've been trying to tell this story for about 10 years. I hope I get it right eventually!

beckylevine said...

Not nothing. Never nothing. The further I get into this "career," the more I realize this is the kind of change/major revision we have to be open to making. Maybe after I've been doing it for another decade, I'll see all these things coming ahead of time, but for now, the best thing is to plot as best I can, dig in, and be ready to change directions if I have to! You're doing great.

Barrie said...

My middle grade started out as a YA. Definitely works better as a middle grade. Thank goodness. It was definitely work switching over. :) Good luck with you wip!

Laini Taylor said...

I love that quote -- and I completely believe it. And I do massive rewriting too, trying to find the right "form" -- with Silksinger I haven't done anything quite so drastic as shift narrative technique, but I have moved the characters around like chess pieces, trying to find just the right way for them to come together with the idea, for the plot to unfold, and all that. It's really taxing! And hearing how your idea came together when you were away from your project, that is something that often works for me too. Taking breaks and shifting gears are an important part of my process, but unfortunately, I've found they might not work so well when writing to a deadline! I'll see how things go with future books, but I do like to be able to lay a story aside and come back to it with fresh eyes.