I’m hardly going to be the first writer ever to find myself tantalisingly close to the end of a first draft (115,000 words), only to discover my plot isn’t working for me the way I need it to. How can I explain it? It’s like I’ve spaced out my tent poles too widely, and now I don’t have enough canvas to cover them.
I’ve now worked out what I need to do to fix it (and hopefully make it easier to find my way down the rest of the long, dark tunnel to that tantalisingly blinking neon The End sign). But it kinda means unstringing my plot and stringing it back together in a slightly different configuration. With some new bits added in.
So that’s today’s task. Reconfigure the synopsis until I have a plot that’s going to work for me. Wish me luck.
Being a very visual person, a fun thing I’ve liked to do since I discovered it a few years ago is checkout Pantone’s colour of the year. Interestingly, for 2016, for the first time ever, they announced TWO colours for the year: Serenity and Rose Quartz. (Side note: naming paint colours is a job I’ve always coveted.) This colour pairing was supposed to express something about the need for harmony in chaos. And it was very pretty in a sort of a kittens and candy-floss kind of way.
The irony, of course, is that on many levels 2016 was not a kittens-and-candy-floss kind of year and I’m not sure that as a global society we really embraced that whole harmony thing. But, in the spirit of aspiring to Serenity and viewing the world through Rose Quartz-tinted glasses, here is my writing achievements round up for 2016.
Just like 2015, I elected to focus on novel projects. I find that what with working a day job and spending time with my lovable and hilarious family, I have to be a bit strategic about how I spend my writing time. So I didn’t do much on the short story front. Here’s what I did do:
Wrote two new short stories (and started another, um, eight or so and had ideas for a few more…)
Sold 2! (One old, one new.) Both to markets I’m very happy with.
Got Novel Project #4 to just over 107,000 words. I wanted to finish it and didn’t, which is annoying, but I’m almost there. Early feedback on the first chunk has been really encouraging, and I’m reasonably confident of wrapping up the first draft soon.
Had some exciting things happen in relation to Novel Project #1, which are still a bit secret. But I’m looking forward to talking more about those in 2017.
Got into the 2016 ACT Writers Centre HARDCOPY professional development program, which was affirming and valuable and through which I’ve met a bunch more talented and extraordinarily lovely writers.
Was part of the team for Conflux 12 & pulled off a wonderful con.
Finish the damn first draft of NP#4 and get it out to my very patient beta readers.
Probably do a bit more work on NP#1
Have a little rest from novel projects and write/finish/polish up/send out some short stories
Give in to the lure of the long-form story and start planning out NPs #3 and 5
Get my bloody passport in order and get myself to Europe for a bit of research.
And what’s the colour for 2017?
A “tangy yellow-green” called Greenery. The comment from Pantone is all about vitality and the desire to rejuvenate.
Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the hope we collectively yearn for amid a complex social and political landscape. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate, revitalize and unite, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose.
Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute
I’m a big fan of green and, you know, nature stuff. But the cynical part of me can think of a few other associations for green in today’s “complex social and political landscape”, which are less kittens-and-candy-floss and more poisoned apple. Which is to say, I actually think green is a very fitting choice for 2017.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if 2017 did turn out to be all about rejuvenation and new growth and a renewed focus on environmental sustainability? And shared prosperity is actually pretty good too, so let’s have some of that.
Here’s to 2017. I hope all your good dreams come true, and we kill off a few of the nightmares.
So, to deal with my stuckness (which hasn’t yet been dealt with), my good friend and writing buddy Robert Porteous asked me how my story ended. I kinda have an idea about that, but it’s vague. Bare bones. I have the pre-ending climax all sorted and have done for a while, but the actual key story climax? Sigh. So he suggested I work on that. It seemed sensible: if I know how it ends, I’ll know what I have to get to. So I did a bit of brainstorming and created a few seeds of ideas that if I water carefully enough will produce shoots (and maybe, hopefully grow into something interesting and fulfilling).
But it’s hard.
So, as a tried and true avoidance technique, I thought “Maybe I’ll go and do some story planning work on one of my other novel WIPs and get into the story planning mood by doing something a bit fresh and different and revitalise my imagination.”
And guess what. No ending on that one. Pre-ending climax sorted. Major story climax? Vaguety-vague-vague-vague. I did a bit of a mental riffle through my other novel projects and, yep, this is something of a pattern for me.
“I wonder why this is?” I wondered. Wonderingly.
As usual, it’s all to do with emotional peaks and troughs. All these minor climaxes are (in standard 3-Act plot terms) the Darkest Hour. It’s the moment of highest and most drawn out emotional tension in the story. Think the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi; Rapunzel thinking Eugene has chosen the looted crown over her; Henri telling Danielle she’s a fraud and publicly withdrawing his heart; Elizabeth Bennet confessing to Mr Darcy that her youngest sister has eloped with the villain that almost ruined his sister’s life.
Star Wars: A New Hope
Pride and Prejudice
If you think about most of these story examples, the Darkest Hour packs a whole lot more emotional punch than the final climax. It’s when the protagonist has lost everything – or the thing that means most to them – and it almost doesn’t matter what else happens to them at that point because their heart has been ripped in two and everything else is trivial.
The exception out of these four (all faves of mine) is Tangled. Much as it hurts to see poor Rapunzel watching Eugene sail off with the crown, it is nothing, nothing, to the blubbering mess I become at the actual climax of the film when he does what he does – not to save her, because he can’t do that at that point – but to stop her giving up on saving herself. *Deep shuddery breath*
And therein lies the lesson. If I’m going to get interested in this part of the story and motivate myself to write it, somehow I’ve got to find a way to make my ending deliver as much, or more, emotional punch as the Darkest Hour.
Here’s the view from my study window this morning.
Autumn had a late start in Canberra this year, but it’s here now. We haven’t had a whole lot of fog yet, but clearly it’s on its way.
And, in other news, the WIP is now sitting on 81,000 words! And I’ve kicked a couple of important plot milestones over the goal line, so whichever way I count it, I’m making progress. Also, because I’m starting to get glimpses of the light at the end of the tunnel, I’ve started planning a new suite of short stories to get into once I’m done with the first draft of this manuscript.
Happy new year! I hope 2014 was a good year for you, or at least had good bits. And here’s to 2015 being even better.
Here’s what I achieved in 2014:
I made 15 story submissions (which didn’t meet my target of 25, but I have a good excuse for that.)
I sold 5 stories! This beat my previous pattern of selling one per year, so I’m pretty chuffed. Three of them sold to the first place I subbed them to, which I’m also pretty chuffed about. And that’s my excuse for not making my target of 25 submissions. I ran out of stories to submit.
I made my first sale to a pro market.
I also got my first review! (And my second, and my third.)
I got an Honourable Mention for one of the stories I subbed to the Writers of the Future Competition.
I finally got Novel Project #1 into a state to start sending out to agents, and I wrote a synopsis (which I consider equivalent to having gained a new skill).
So what’s on the cards for 2015?
Find an agent for Novel Project #1.
Write (and sell!!) more short stories. I’m going to aim for 15 submissions this year. That’s a bit low, but my trunk is basically empty at the moment, so I’m going to have to write some before I can submit them. I think 15 is probably going to be a stretch.
Let’s aim high: I’d like to finish a first draft of Novel Project #3 or #4, and do substantial work on the other one.
Finish and polish up a few half-written stories and first drafts of novellas I have sitting in the trunk.
And here’s a couple of castle-in-the-air goals:
Win a writing competition.
Make another pro sale.
I’m also going to have a stab at learning another language. I’m going to try French!
Here’s hoping that 2015 will be a good year! I wish you every happiness and success with all your goals in the coming months.