Though I’d been writing in one form or another since I could; though I teach fiction and academic writing; though I have been an avid reader of contemporary and classic lit, I knew I had a lot to learn when it came to writing fiction. Just as many erroneously assume if one can speak a language, one can teach it, so too with writing fiction. Simply because one has the creative urge to write does not assume they can write interesting and create well composed fiction. It’s a craft—talent and natural ability notwithstanding—that must be learned, honed and challenged with “…careful practice during a severe course of training…” Isolated writers ploughing along, accumulating huge word counts in the wee hours of the morning or dark silences of the night easy forget how difficult it can be to do what they do well when overshadowed and wowed by such mountainous output.
On a NaNo forum I asked about what books the writers there had found helpful in developing craft. It was really surprising to me how many relied exclusively on learning by “…reading other writer’s fiction…” I agree and acknowledge that this as a wonderful source, one I utilize myself. I can’t help but wonder however, if that isn’t enough. Books and classes on writing my seem extemporaneous, but I am coming to appreciate more and more how much I don’t know as I read where other writers have sojourned before me and the elevated view they discovered there that I was unaware of—things that would have been obtuse or downright illusive were I to rely exclusively on gleaning from another writer’s fiction alone. Maybe it is just me, my learning modality, how I work best and my self-image that’s at play here, but…wow…this shit is hard to do right.
As I read my work I see more clearly how it’s such a pile of words and has very little to do with craft, but is more of a semi-creative vomit. For many that’s as far as it goes. Behold my mountain!
As I continue to read Kress’s book on character, emotion and point of view, in the back of my mind I am climbing with the girls from Scions. As I subject them to the exercises suggested at the end of each chapter—not all the exercises just those that seem applicable—it is becoming more and more evident that they lack something and that this ‘something’ is what is keeping me from composing about them as freely as I did the characters from The Kevodran.
I’m not entirely sure yet, but I have a growing suspicion it has to do with conflict. It’s not that there is no conflict, mind you, they’ve got plenty to deal with, but it may not be the right kind of conflict between the right characters, it may be too ‘outward,’ inter-conflict between themselves and others rather than intra-conflict within their relationship with each other. Even though I’ve given the girls divergent backgrounds, and skill sets, they still have too much in common having been raised together in a monastery for the past half dozen years. This commonality is for me, part of the “Screen of Reality” through which the girls perceive and react to the world around them and each other. I have a feeling the mesh is too fine, too uniform, too similar and, as a result, the girls are not reacting as individuals but as parrots of each other. I suspect these girls need private agendas. I suspect I may have to end up ‘breaking up’ their friendship in order to make them more interesting and appealing to a reader, as well as to my imagination. I may need to include the deeper underlying challenge of getting over themselves, setting aside petty behavior and learning to work together so that they might complete the overriding challenge in an interesting fashion.
This could mean a major rewrite, a climb back down the mountain, a resupply and a brand new attempt along a different route. While this may not necessarily negate the 60,000 words thus written, as it is arguable they were necessary to formulating a better plan, and though I would use material from them, a new beginning, a uniquely different beginning is in order.
Nothing is sure yet. I still have more than half the book to go. These are simply my thoughts at present. Now, back to my pitons and ropes.