Monday, March 9, 2009

I have a date with my WIP

Not that kind of whip.

I have a complicated relationship with my work in progress. We haven't spoken for months, but tonight we have a date and I'm determined to make amends.

I was about 12,000 words into a draft when I made the decision to scratch the cast. After spending years with the characters in my first book, starting a new book with characters I didn't know felt kind of like sitting down to dinner with a group of strangers. Awkward and forced. So I decided to keep the premise of my new book but start over with characters I knew well.

I sailed through the early pages of a new draft at a pretty good clip, all the way to about 24,000 words. A novel is typically about 70-80,000 words, so I was glad to reach the 1/4 mark of a rough first draft. I showed the early chapters to a writer friend and asked for some big muscle comments. That is to say, I wasn't worried about tight sentences and snappy dialogue just yet, I only wanted to know if the story was working. My friend suggested dropping the first three chapters. I knew he was right, but since I measure my self-worth by my word count, I promised myself to keep the words for now and cut them later. That began the nagging feeling that all was not right with the story. Our time together started to feel a little bit stilted.

Then Hurricane Ike blew through town. For two weeks, there was no power--no A/C, refrigerator, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, or computer. Grocers shelves were bare. Nobody had fuel. Trees and power lines blocked the roads, and everyone had damage to their homes. It wasn't the time to write. It was time to haul debris and rebuild. For over a month, I was disconnected from my story and slowly it started to fade.

Soon afterward, right before Christmas, I received the revision letter for my first novel. This was huge! The revisions got my full attention. We went through two rounds of revisions, and I told myself that as soon as that book was settled, I'd refocus on Book 2.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, Christmas happened. I redecorated one room and repainted another. I trained for and ran two marathons. Started guitar lessons. Agreed to help plan a 5K/10K fundraiser. Entertained house guests for three weeks. Blah, blah, blah. My point is, a lot was going on. My manuscript and I grew apart.

Right now, sitting here, I can't even remember what is going on in that book. Why are my characters so stressed out? Who got murdered in this book anyway?

It happened exactly the way Timothy Hallinan said it would:

Why do I think you should write every day?

The more time you spend with your story, the more real its world will be to you. If you spend three days away, it will be three times as difficult to get going again. If you spend a month away, you're practically going to have to start over. You want the momentum and the familiarity with the world of your book that only comes when you enter that world regularly.

Well, I'm ready to enter regularly again. Fun starts tonight at our Big Date. I'll tumble back down the rabbit hole, where my characters are waiting for me with all their problems and worries. I hope my reunion date with my WIP will be the start of a long, committed relationship.

But not too long. My goal is a first draft by the end of the year.

1 comment:

  1. Everyday seems a little longer
    Every way love's a little stronger
    Come what may
    Do you ever long for, true love from me
    Everyday it's a-gettin' closer
    Goin' faster than a roller coaster
    Love like yours will surely come my way
    A-hey, a-hey-hey

    Buddy Holly might have been talking about a novel he was writing. You got to fall in love again. They may be a little cold at first, but they'll warm up. Then your characters will show you what they're up to. Just because you haven't been watching doesn't mean they haven't been riding the roller coaster. A -hey-hey.