Thursday, July 29, 2010

Background versus story

I'm up to about 29,000 words, which could be a third of a book if I was kidding myself. I know that all I have been writing is background without yet tackling story. That is, present action. And I know from experience with my first book that almost no background will survive into later drafts. In reality I probably don't have 2,000 words of usable material yet.

This is coming out of my own particular strengths and weaknesses. I'm good at coming up with scene, situation, scenario. I'm weakest at plot -- getting the characters off this interesting starting point and into more and more trouble. That's always been my hang up. I'm proud of myself for working my way through it on my first book, but it remains my hang up still.

I try to treat the "drafting" time as precious -- nothing is as important as adding sentences first thing in the morning when I'm fresh -- but I've been doing that in full consciousness that I'm not getting anywhere, so I decided to use my fresh time this morning to do more reflective writing and note taking and brainstorming, trying to get a handle on the story.

The main outcome of that was realizing that the story that has taken shape was a little off in a very important way from the story I thought I was working on. It's more about one guy than about a relationship between two guys. That relationship is still there, but the story has been focusing on what that means for one of them. I could re-balance it. More likely I'll go with it.

I'm not sure what to do next. Probably I need to try writing (again) an opening scene based on this new understanding. Perhaps I should do more brainstorming to line up some of the other major scenes in the book. But that can be a kind of work-avoidance. I need to get back into the "just add sentences" mode as soon as possible, or months could by where I'm indulging (for me) the easier work of theorizing instead of writing.

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