Friday, September 19, 2008

Two steps back

Worked on chapters 4, 5 and 6 today. Once I started reading through Chapter 6 yesterday, the problems in it seemed pretty severe and thinking them through sent me back to try again on scenes in previous chapters.

In particular, I've tried 2 different endings of Chapter 5 a couple times each. One ending is more dramatic but harder to pull off convincingly, so I keep chickening out and going for the weaker ending. (Essentially, I'm afraid to bring too much grief to my character too quickly. It seems like more than he can bear. And if he can't bear it, the pressure will build up before I can get him to the end of the story.) But then when I got into Chapter 6 I persuaded myself that I needed that more dramatic development to have happened, so I went back again and tried to make it work.

Chapter 6 has been my biggest pain the butt since I first started drafting it almost 18 months ago. It was first time that my writing schedule went off the rails and I ended up spending about twice as long on it, writing about 3 times as much as necessary. There's a lot of good material in it, and I've often thought that it would be good starter dough for a different story or book project. But so much of it doesn't fit with this book.

I think this is a function of it being in the voice of a secondary character. I have a few chapters, this one included, where I shift to another character's point of view. That requires getting in touch more with their motivation, which requires thinking about their backstory and so on. The hard part is figuring out how much of the character sketch work is needed in the draft in order to carry the story along convincingly. It's a tough balancing act when you switch to another character's POV like this.

That and other problems have me slowing way down as I come through the chapter again. This chapter probably more than any other needs actual rewriting--not just digging deeper and developing the potential in the episodes--but rethinking what the episodes are for in the story line and writing them over again.

So, I've got a lot more work to do on this than I wish I had. Friday now. I better plan on it taking all of next week. Similar to what I was thinking last week about Chapter 5, which I "finished" on Tuesday but found myself needing to go back and fuss with this morning.

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