Monday, January 29, 2007

Update: Happy In Fantasy Land

I try not to use this blog as a personal diary. After all, who wants to read my griping about tedious challenges or snoozing about how bored I may be today. Zzzzz. I hate diaries.

But right now seems like a good time to give everyone an update, because I'm happy! Yahoo! (Or Yeehaw! with apologies to Yahoo!'s trademark office.)

Seriously, things seem to be going much, much better for me after my having wandered aimlessly for so long through a vast, dry, and colorless desert in my mind; that is to say, through a failed novel. Now it seems as if I have finally crossed over that desert and I am back in what appears to be a lush, temperate rain forest — not just any forest, either, but one that's full of animals, fascinating people, mysterious events, and great courage. I like it here!

Thanks and many thanks to my wonderful and amazing partner for his continued advice about thinking skills, but also to my friends and blog readers for the great stack of reading materials that they suggested. By the end of this year, I will have read more than I have read in the previous ten. Each story has been a plot-training device, and my efforts appear to be paying dividends.

Always before, I would outline my novels with only about three hierarchical levels: one that was very general (too high in my hierarchy to be useful) and one or two that were right down in the details (too low for my crow). My one and only successful novel worked only because it was so simple that my crow could handle it. This time around, though, I seem to have learned some things.

The main lesson, as I said, is that a critical mid-point was missing from my outline, one where I could see my story as four or five major "events" instead of just one or many. Not only that, but I have learned that these key "events" can't be too generally defined so as to be useless. They have to express real action, such as "Adam wins the race and becomes the celebrated hero of Smalltown." Additionally, any one of these broad "events" may comprise many chapters in the novel, or just one; I neither know nor care early on.

I have also learned not to flush out these four or five major events too carefully at first. I have to let my mind play with them until the overall trajectory of the action seems to work. Even when I do go down into the details just a bit to test my ideas, I have to come right back up to rework the high-level plan, then I can go back down again into the details, expanding as I go — but not very quickly! I can't spend too much time in the details until I know for sure that I can't improve the four or five major events to any good effect.

I thought that I knew about this kind of thinking already. In fact, I was sure of it, but I guess I was wrong, or at least I wasn't doing a very good job of it.

I make no promises about when this current novel will be finished or whether it will be publishable (by my standards). I have progressed far beyond that folly! Still, there's reason to hope.

Oh, and there's one other lesson that I've been sorely reminded of: Write what you love! So far I am loving this story the way I love my favorite chair, blanket, cup of coffee, fire in the fireplace, and book in my hand. In other words, I enjoy going to work once again. That's a nice place to be — however long it lasts.

[Update: Edited for clarity. This is the hardest part of blogging for me. If I write on my blog as well as I write for work, then I won't blog very much. Then again, I can't stand to have crappy entries on my blog. Grrr.]

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