Today was intended to be a day of writing, but it’s turned into ‘writing about writing’… which is, as you may recall from my previous post, not really writing at all.
I’m still stuck at 30k words, and have admitted to myself that the fundamental thing holding me back is the slightly wonky structure holding up the story. There are one too many flashbacks (interesting enough, but they don’t move the plot along), one too many asides involving mysterious characters who don’t get properly introduced for ages, and perhaps most important of all: as written, the main character doesn’t have anyone to bounce off for large sections of the text. The way I’ve written him (he’s not yet writing himself, more’s the pity), he’s a quiet loner with only one close friend to speak of, and they part company a few chapters in. That turns the next 3,000-odd words into the main character doing Stuff all by himself – possibly all well and good, but it has been increasingly difficult to explore these moments without feeling that I’m not moving it along sufficiently quickly. If I feel the exposition is getting a bit weary, chances are that the reader is thinking that too.
So, time to tear up the structure and start again. Not completely, mind you – Gods know, there are some gems in what I’ve written so far* – but certainly I need to re-pace (rather than ‘replace’ – see what I did there?) the opening quarter of the book, to get the characters, setting and themes introduced through dialogue and action, not through wordy blocks of text where nothing happens. Today was spent drafting out a detailed chapter structure, and I’m already feeling a lot more motivated about the tale I’m telling.
There may be some casualties along the way, of course; I may have to kill or at least maim a couple of my favourite chapters. But, I will take that as A Good Thing. A uni lecturer of mine once said that if you had a favourite turn of phrase in an essay, cut it out; chances are it’s a little too pithy, a little too convoluted, a little too obvious, and it will stick out to the reader. He was talking about 4,000-word essays on international politics rather than 100,000-word novels, but perhaps that applies here, too. Certainly, I have suprised myself by how positive I am over these changes, and that’s probably because the story as I’ve re-assembled it simply seems to make more sense. I’m spending more time with characters I like, less with those that are tangential to the overall plot, and getting to the heart of the story faster. I think that Tom Waits once said (although I may have imagined it) that when he’s writing songs, some bits get thrown into the junkpile, only to get re-used later on. This is what’s happening here, albeit I do hope that when I patch things together the seams aren’t too obvious – I want my Frankenstein to be sans scars and neck-bolts, if at all possible.
Now, to inject it with the spark of life and get back to writing the bloody thing…!
* individual experience may vary.