It might be expected that N. and A. are in love. What if N. doesn’t love A. at all, but fearing that if he turns to K., she will lose access to the resources he represents, she sincerely tries to love him as he desires, but in the end just can’t—and though she saves her people and truly expresses her heart, she sets the great tragedy into motion (hell-if-I-know what that tragedy is yet!)?
Due to academic and student demands, I wasn’t able to devote more than half an hour at a time to K.M.Weiland’s “What-If” exercises and their variants. It took me a week to ten days to make more than passing attempts at them. This was/is a bit frustrating because just as things began to get interesting and my speculations started bearing fruit, I had to return to the demands of my administrators, the needs of my students or, in the evening, pack it in and prep for bed.
As it was, I kept a piece of folded note-paper handy throughout the day and as my students were working on their journals, academic meetings grew tedious, or I was making photo-copies, I jotted down a few quick “What if’s” for transcription after I got home. Scratch paper notes, though a basic and unglamorous tool, are a survival strategy I heartily endorse. It may not be “writerly” or fit sub-culturally into the popular romantic notion of what it is to be a writer, it is something. It’d be nice if I could sit at my humming computer or my open notebook with time to “…write down every idea, no matter how crazy…,” but the truth of the matter is prolonged opportunities just aren’t there until Saturday mornings when the needs of my students can come second for a bit. Those of you who enjoy such luxury, count your blessings! Those of you who are dedicated teachers, you understand.
In some ways, however, the protracted time period between chances to write things down might actually have been helpful as it required I meditate on my what-ifs. My subconscious thus had time to ponder and prospect, and in the process, discard more worthless ideas before they hit paper and identify a few rough gems stones that might otherwise have been lost in the glut.
If something really pinged my imagination hard in the morning (as it usually does), I allowed myself a few moments to quickly scribble it down for transcription later, or if it was a bit more complex and I felt I might lose it if I didn’t immediately commit it to the What-If template I created in Apache’s OpenOffice, I would write it down in full. I had to be careful, however, as my mornings are reserved for meeting my Lord on the “…icy paving stones….” I know only too well the disasters that follow when I don’t commit my day to and spend time with Yeshua Adonai.
Regardless of how long it took or the difficulties involved, were the exercises helpful and what were my results?
I believe they were. I was able to write down 45 “what-if” entries, 20 “what is expected” entries, and a half dozen “what is unexpected.”
Interestingly, I found myself straying from the workbook construct and my table based template into a more free-form mode, simply asking “What-if X, but then Y?” akin to the exercise’s description in the book. I didn’t find this necessarily more productive as more natural.
After a short gestation period, I’ll review the results for usefulness, but I can say a few of my questions led me down some engaging and unlooked for tangents that might prove surprising and interesting to a potential reader which was the purpose of the exercise.
I think it’s helpful to remember I’m not coming to these preliminary exercise with only a few ideas. No indeed, I’ve already set sail with this WIP and have only returned to port because it’s just not sailing well (see last week’s post). It could be argued those prior words are obstacles in the way of the exercise working as fully as intended. I’m trying very hard stand aside and let the vessel be stripped to its very ribs if need be so as to make it more sea-worthy—a grim and painful task but necessary.
As for the Grand Self-Study Plan: I continue to read Structuring Your Novel during Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) highlighter, pencil, and sticky-notes at hand. I have a shade less than 100 pages to go. Over the next ten days, I hope to finish it, and let it gestate in while I turn myself fully to whatever is left of the Outlining Your Novel workbook. Easter Break begins at the end of the month and will serve whatever outstanding writing needs I’ve identified in the meantime.