Friday, March 4, 2011

A Horrific Realization

I like to think of myself as not being a noob writer, even though technically I am one. A lot of the writing advice I see aimed at new writers doesn't apply to me. Stuff like, "make sure you have a plot," "create a flawed protagonist," "spelling and punctuations are your friends", "don't qualify your dialogue with adjectives," "revise, several times." I follow those rules naturally. On encountering a new piece of advice, my normal reaction is, "People do that?"

But at the same time, there are problems with the WIP. I know this. I've known about most of them for a while, and I more or less know how to fix them. A couple of problems have really come to light in the last couple days, though, via email correspondence with Hannah Bowman, who's getting a shout-out because she's awesome. One problem is impossibly thorny and will take time and patience and a certain amount of blood and tears to correct.* The other is a case of me not following one of the noob rules.

Yes, I have started my manuscript in the wrong place. In my defense, there is a decent case to be argued for starting where I did.** But it's not working, and the first chapter's a little slow. However, if I rewind the clock about 12 hours, we get a fight scene and an unconscious protagonist and bad guys and cool technology. It's also, in a sense, the inciting incident.

So why didn't I start there in the first place? Because I'm too clever for my own good, sometimes. You see, I knew I needed a hook, and I figured, "Hey, if I start after that big fight scene, and only allude back to it, and there are strange things happening that may have to do with this fight we don't really know about, that would make a great hook! People would have to keep reading to find out what the heck is going on! And I can do a big reveal in Chapter 3!"***

Yeah…. Turns out, average reader reaction is more towards the "stop reading" end of the spectrum. I'm going to have to find a way to work in the fight without wrecking the revelation scene in Chapter 3, because the hero's friend need to know stuff, but I can't just retell the opening, and I can't really summarize everything because the friends have to chew out the hero at just about every step. They will not stay quiet long enough to let him finish. Sigh.

Fortunately, I have two new scenes to write near the end, and another scene to "accept changes" on, before I have to restart the story. I guess we'll see if the fight scene works or not after that.

Oh, and this post? Is not a flat-out supporting of the advice to "start in the right place". Go ahead and start in the wrong place. Several times. But be prepared to start in the right spot after people tell you it's not working. This way, you'll be able to identify what the "wrong place" feels like and hopefully not do it again.

* We're not going to talk about this one because it's better communicated through babble and hand-waving than actual prose.
** Also in my defense, the very first opening I wrote was terrible.
*** Chapter 3 being the hero's second chapter.


Reece said...

I actually just came to the same realization a couple weeks ago, except I was starting to soon and needed to cut out a bunch of stuff. I also got some gut-wrenching feedback that one of the critical scenes later on just didn't work with the characters involved. It's mistakes like those that really make you feel like a beginner.

Shannon said...

It's only though our mistakes that we become better writers. At the moment my quote on my screensaver is - "I've learned so much from my mistakes . . . I'm thinking of making a few more."
Keep up the good work :)