Why I have stopped working on my present WIP
Though I have written nearly 80k words worth of WIP6 rough draft and research to date, the plot and story presently feel more disjointed and awkward than I imagine a rough draft should. I have therefore called a halt to any further composition until I have put my story through some sort of structured filter (read outline) by which it can be examined for missing and/or misshapen features. What follows is my plan.
WTF! Are you tryin’ to kill your muse, dude!?
Yes. Some may suggest this might lead to a conformity that stifles creativity. The tired (and erroneous) conflict between Pansters, Planners, and Plansters comes to mind. At present I am not the least worried about who might be right or wrong in such a fruitless debate and on which side (if there is such a thing) I might fall. What I am concerned about is the presently hulking and crippled Franken-story I’ve pieced together and the rising frustration produced wondering why the results do not match my “creative” vision. This frustration is present, real, and far more dangerous to future storytelling efforts than whether I’m a panster or planner.
Oh! oh! I want to be a Jedi padawan, Hogwarts’ student, Superhero sidekick, and a Hobbit chef!
This being said, though I am aware my story has flaws I don’t fully understand, I am only too aware of my personal flaws. I am too hungry, nearly desperate, for a sense of belonging to and camaraderie in the writing community. I wish I had access to a fellowship of writers whom I could trust were committed to the craft, understood the process, and were willing to mentor or at least counsel a neophyte such as myself. This desire makes me vulnerable and foolish. I am susceptible to the strongest, most articulate, and understandable “guru” who happens to enter my blog/book reading & podcast/Youtube listening orbit. I have the purchase receipts for up-teen books, online classes and seminars to prove it. The blow dealt to my self-confidence by my recent divorce only exacerbates this flaw. Flatly: I tend to rush pellmell brandishing my check-book with enthusiasm at various “experts” only to eventually and predictably run out of steam in the solo silence of my efforts.
Do you have your super secret Orphan Annie decoder ring ready?!
The “…solo silence…” isn’t surprising. The rational mind sees it clearly. Writing is essentially a solo experience, besides, why would anyone want to invest energy and time in me when I don’t have a complete rough draft for them to poke and prod? And rightly so. Yes, WIP6 means this is the sixth attempt. The other five manuscripts are in various stages of incompleteness and represent a star-struck neophyte’s attempt at storytelling. They are not complete novel manuscripts so intended and formed. So I get it. To be a member of the club not only does one have to be a writer, one must also have a novel manuscript to share, take to conferences, revise, edit, and eventually cry and commiserate over.
“Answers!? We don’ need no stinkin’ answers!
As for my character flaws, there are no solutions and frankly, I’m not seeking any. I realize my choices are my own. I’m no homunculus compelled to rise and do my master’s bidding. I write of this merely to place myself on notice: I have chosen to consume K.M.Weiland’s three craft books and hammer through her workbooks and build an understanding of her particular novel-writing Kung Fu in an effort to write my own manuscript according to the sub-culture’s strictures. No more random blind attempts. As far as answers go, they will appear…or not. As far as a writer’s group is concerned, it too will appear…or not. Regardless I must make a reasonable plan for gaining the knowledge I need and apply myself to see it (…you’re whole plan, mind you…”) through to the end.
So…oh, writing knight errant, how do you plan to go about “…stormin’ the castle…”?
First, like most human beings, I know I work best both on a schedule and under pressure. As a 27 year teaching veteran, I know how to structure such a schedule and include goals and objectives to fulfill it. As a human being, on the other hand, my procrastination-avoidance kung-fu is strong, and I may have to adjust the my goals. Life too will have its say, I’m sure, as in tandem I pursue teaching obligations, family commitments, and other life-interests (namely bagpiping, reading, and my health), and deal with the inevitable challenges fielded as my divorce finalizes itself, which may be one of my largest hurdles. Shrug…shikata ga nai.
And thus—what, oh man-who-would-be-[hilarious]-published is the goal?
During February, I read, highlighted, annotated, and sticky-noted (hey, I’m an English teacher with a burden for avoiding classroom hypocrisy and that’s how I roll) K.M.W.’s Outlining You Novel: Map Your Way to Success.
Now in March, I am beginning the OYN companion workbook exercises, using WIP6—regardless if I need them or not; or want to do them or not—in an effort to leave no stone unturned in my search for illusive grail of sub-cultural context and acumen. In the mean time, I’ll finish reading K.M.W.’s Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story. I’m presently a little less than half way through using the same M.O.: highlight, annotate, sticky-note and maybe even take formal reading-notes.
In April, I’ll lay siege to the SYN workbook using the new WIP6 OL applying structuring principles learned and begin reading Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development.
May will be reserved for CCA workbook exercises but no additional reading. The five character arcs may or may not find a character in WIP6, but the workbook is sizable when compared to the others, so the additional time freed by not reading a craft book in tandem may be a boon. May is also the last month of the ’17-’18 school year; experience has taught me it will be academically busy.
The overall goal will be a solid outline and structure with character arcs in place by the first of the summer. If I have actually begun composing a second draft by that time, so much the better.
June will be full with bagpiping school, the 2018 Model Schools Conference, a haj to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando FL, and 10 days in North Carolina with my youngest daughter and her husband.
July’s obligations are still hazy, but I’m hoping to pull the trigger on some long awaited and saved-for home-improvements on my mother’s home.
Could I have a working draft done by the end of summer (August 18)? Honestly, I don’t know. If not, it will be a true WIP by then for sure.
A Word of Warning…
And yet…after all of the above, I hesitate to post this. While I cannot predict the future, I know I have floundered along this path ever since I was a teen and after all those decades, I have yet to make a go of it. Experience is a very harsh teacher. I would be a fool not to listen to what it seems to be saying, so with this post, I sound what could be a final charge. As with so much in my life, the answer is sometimes, “No.” I have to accept this.
Things end. Things begin.
So be it, now tally-ho.