Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Quixotic Pull of Your Future Novel

Ever hit about 35K on a WIP and get smacked over the head, lovesick for a new idea—a new novel? This has happened to me almost every single time I reach the midway point.
Finally I decided to discuss this quixotic pull with a fellow author. It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try to unearth the reasoning behind why I’m so easily seduced by a fresh set of characters and a compelling plot as soon as I hit halfway.
Together my friend and I settled on a few reasons why this might be happening:
A Pleasant Distraction at the Perfect TimeA novel gets a lot trickier to stick with once you’ve passed 30K. Conflict needs tightening. Characters need motivation. The plot must move fluidly. The prospect of being introduced to potential characters that have nothing to do with a dragging plot pace is extremely tempting. I find I must be wary of usurping ideas that come on too strong. They might simply exist so I’ll deviate from my WIP.
Think a stellar daydream during third period calculus. It’s worth it to plug through the problems.
Stalling PointI’ve actually stopped writing two novels because I ran smack dab into the vacuum. You know the vacuum where you run out of creativity for a novel. Ideas had been sucked from my brain. How did I remedy that problem? I invented a cast of characters that knew how to stay around for the duration. Rarely would I advise someone to bail out on a WIP, but if you’ve reached an irreversible stalling point, then take on the enticing project with gusto.
Losing that Lovin’ FeelingRemember how you felt when you fell in love for the first time? I swear that’s how writing a rough draft feels for me sometimes. The woozy lightheaded zone. Craving to learn every single thing about my characters. Forgiving their flaws only to write them all down and save them for later use. Smitten until page 109. Then the butterflies flutter away from my stomach and the gloves come out. At some point I find myself fighting through, working hard to make it to the end. When the romantic notion of my story arc flees, much like what happens at varying stages of all relationships; I must learn to stay the course.
Characters Can’t Be ControlledLet’s face it characters have an uncanny bent toward rudeness. They barge. They storm. They interrupt dinner and bedtime. They’re desperate to have their stories told. And their timing by no means lines up with our timing. They visit when they visit, suitcases clutched in both hands. I’ve found the best thing to do when I’m flooded with descriptions of Bob and Betty is to take notes. I’ll spend months taking notes on characters. Dozens of characters that have made a sudden appearance in my brain have been duly noted, but not all of them have made it to the page. At least not yet.
A Great IdeaAnd then there are moments when I truly stumble across a solid idea with flourishing characters. An unforgettable plot. Is it wrong to tackle two novels at the same time? No. Separate notes have helped me keep my facts straight and my timelines from looking more crooked than Nanny McPhee’s nose.
Has this ever happened to you? What explanation do you have for the quixotic pull of a future novel while you’re hard at work on your WIP?

*photos from flickr


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Yes, yes, yes! I have the same thing happen! I'm 30,000 words in and am stumped. I know where the story needs to go, but just is not all that interesting to me anymore. Isn't that the weirdest thing? I am hoping as I travel this weekend, I can daydream in the car and get more scenes hammered out in my head. (I am driving though, so I can't daydream TOO much!)

Saumya said...

Ah, could you be anymore correct?! I have experienced all of these but could not put my mind on what exactly made me want to keep starting fresh. It is so much easier to make a new, exciting start than to pull along a middle. (Actually wrote a poem about "unfinished starts" the other day.) Great post!

MaDonna Maurer said...

Totally agree with you on this one. I just finished the first draft, but at about 30K I got bored! It was terrible. I ended up writing a short flash fiction piece for a contest, which actually helped a bit. But, to get back to the novel was torture! I think the Nano deadline and my over-the-top of "fear of failure" pushed me to just finish it. Your "falling in and out of love" example was brilliant!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Wendy, I just love your way of putting things. :) And yes, this does happen to me. I'm a pretty methodical person until I finish something, so when another story tries to take over my brain, I jot down my thoughts in as much detail as possible and get back to the original project. Then when I'm ready for that next one, I've got all my notes to jumpstart the story.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Sherrinda, You are so right, when I give myself time to daydream I'm always amazed what surfaces.

Saumya, Now you've got me wanting to read your poem. ;)

MaDonna, Thanks about the love comment. Setting goals certainly helps push me through and shoving myself beyond those feelings of fear.

Thanks Sarah. I think I'm more methodical than I once thought. I've tried to write two novels at the same time but they were getting jumbled so I've found taking notes helps best and it's also a good test to see if the characters will last.

Thanks for chiming in today!
~ Wendy

AimeeLSalter said...

I often get new ideas and characters while writing one book, but I haven't had to abandon a wip yet. That said, I've only finished two, so we aren't exactly in serious experience territory.

I just take notes on the characters, sometimes write a scene if it won't leave me alone. For two of the new ideas I have full outlines now because they wouldn't leave me alone...

That said, I haven't started them, so maybe they aren't as wonderful as I think!

Great post, thanks.

Angie Dicken said...

I do this at the end of a novel(first draft)...which I guess is good, but what happens to me is I get disappointed with my finished product, and challenge myself to do better. This sounds great, but it really is hard to justify spending so much time on a story and then throwing it in the mental drawer of "take 2 or 3 or 4". I think back and know how to improve it and give it the final punch, but I am so sick of the story and so in love with my next idea, that I have no motivation!
This is a GREAT post Wendy. Very wise!

Audra Harders said...

Hiya, Wendy!! Great post! I've stalled out on more novels than I can count. It's usually been the historical ones where I know I haven't incorporated enough conflict, but don't realize it until page 130...then I'm too frustrated to go back and rework it.

What seems to work is building on rough drafts. I write a semi-quazi synopsis in about 15 pages taking the characters where I want them to go.

The rough draft is the characters taking me where they want to go. All I do is write dialogue, tags, and emotion. Wow, I come out with a vastly different story.

After that, I sit down and expand on the skeletal base. It's taken me YEARS to come up with this method. Oh I've had help and suggestions along the way, the pointers just didn't click with me, you know? Just goes to show no one else can help you find your yellow brick road to novel completion but God and you.

Great post! Lots to think about!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Audra, I loved your comment! It is always so cool to see how others do it, but in reality, I need to find out how I do it. And that is by writing...over and over and over. Excellent point!

Amy Ellerman said...

This just happened to me yesterday--midway through my very first novel. I'm so happy to hear that it is normal, almost expected. I will resist the urge to be distracted and write on! Thank you!