Last week, I realized I had lost my religion.
Two events happened which shaped that conviction, and resulted in me changing the way I view my writing style and my writing goals.
The first event was Dawn Temple’s blog post, where she pondered her inability to tackle one of her WoC goals. I commented that I could have been the person who wrote that blog, the words so closely matched what was happening in my own writing world. Dawn was quite eloquent in her adorable, quirky style (you should read the post for yourself), but in a nutshell she wrote about her dilemma of making progress on one goal and absolutely no movement on the other.
Me too! Me too! I thought after reading the post.
Then, while my thoughts percolated on this shared phenomenon, the second event was hearing a presentation at the Houston Bay Area monthly RWA meeting, giving by none other than Woc’er Sandra K. Moore. Her topic: Plotting to the Dark Moment. Sandra referenced some tried and true writing books. Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer and Debra Dixon’s GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict. With Swain, Sandra chose to remind us about the dark moment as a moral choice, and Dixon’s GMC as containing critical fiction-writing elements that shoehorn the protagonist into the dark moment.
The presentation was fabulous, but what I came to recognize about my current WIP left me disheartened.
Like a weekly churchgoer who hears the same biblical stories year after year and had grown tone deaf to the fundamental lesson being imparted, I had forgotten to employ basic fiction precepts found in each of these great books.
How did these two realizations change me?
First, it is necessary for you to understand that I intend to write a three book serial. In each book, the same two characters will meet up in different points in time. However, each book will also be intermingled with the storylines of the other books. If that sounds confusing, think of The Notebook. In the present, the old man is reading a story to his ailing wife that catapults the storyline back in time for a spell before returning again to the present. The sections of the story that trips through the past happens at different points in time. My story structure is similar.
In addition, in order for you to grasp what I learned from last week’s events, it is also important that you know what my WoC Goals are this time around. You can always visit our website, right side of the homepage, under the countdown clock, and see what each of us has stated as our goals. For me, goal one is to write a first draft of Book 3. Goal two is to polish to second draft quality 20,000 words of Book 1. I’ve been making some headway on goal one, but no movement whatsoever on goal two.
So, from reading Dawn’s blog post I came to understand the reason I wasn’t making progress on goal two was the result of the way I was trying to tackle the entire project. Despite the fact that I had been told several times that my first two books weren’t really the main story, I stubbornly held to the belief that each story was essentially a standalone. However, as I delved into goal one, I finally realized that Book 3 was my main story. This recognition meant I needed to change my thinking. Instead of slipping excerpts of Book 3 into Book 1, I needed to slip excerpts of Book 1 into Book 3. Non-writers may see that flip-flopping as mere semantics, but I doubt there is writer out there who will not understand the profound, perhaps sublime difference.
I couldn’t get motivated to work on Book 1, because I need to finish Book 3 first. I wrote this serial sequentially, but turns out that was out of order. I should have written Book 3 first, and then Books 1 and 2.
From Sandra’s presentation, I learned – or rather, I relearned – some basics. Building conflict, aiming the characters and the storyline towards the cresting dark moment, adequately and realistically motivating action and characters, giving those characters worthy goals, and then stripping their greatest desires away from them. In short, my lack of clearly defined motivation taken together a lack of knowing, in concrete terms, what the dark moment should be for both my male and female leads was causing my words to fall flat on the page, and my scenes to often serve no real purpose towards story development.
Time to dust off and review some of my old writing books. After all, you’re never too experienced to be firmly grounded in the basics. To our WoC readers, I challenge you to revisit some of your old reference books. See if your writing doesn’t become more vital as a result.
Thanks to my fellow WoC’ers, who helped me tons this week. Even though I’ve not written one word on my current WIP, I feel like I’ve made tons of progress!
Lorinda Peake wrote her first ditty when she was ten on an English seashore while visiting her British grandmother. From then on, her family either acted in or were treated to plays, skits, or commercial spoofs. In school, she wrote poetry, fables and short stories.
Years later, she tossed down a particularly bad novel and thought, “I could do at least that well.” She’s been pursuing the elusive published novel ever since. Recently, she joined a group of fellow writers who decided to cajole, bully, encourage, and sometimes baby each other along towards the publishing goal by setting real and measurable writing objectives with “motivational” consequences for non-attainment.
Lorinda loves a good romance – all the more if it is wrapped in a great fantasy setting. She lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with her husband of 34 years.