Saturday, August 30, 2008

Thanks to Norman Mailer

I'm subscribed to a Writing Quote of the Day list. I've never been good at plotting far in advance. It's just my process. So this quote from Norman Mailer hit home.

To know what you want to say beforehand is not the best condition for writing a novel. Novels go happiest when you discover something you did not know you knew.

My novel had been creeping along, and I wasn't exactly sure why. I had the characters worked out, but although they were doing everything I expected of them, the story was slogging. Since my daughter had been visiting when we'd brainstormed the overall characters and their GMCs, I IM'd her (she lives in Northern Ireland) and tried to set up a convenient time to do some long-distance brainstorming.

Initially, we set up the heroine's back story and motivations, and I created a nice conflict between heroine and hero, along with his back story and motivations and conflicts. We sketched out the inciting incident, and the overall external conflict. But after 43,000 words, I hit a brick wall with the plot, because the conflicts all started being external. What I was missing was a way to connect the heroine's inner conflict to the main storyline.

Duh. Conflict 101. The heroine wants (or in this case wants to avoid) something. So, I knew I had to find a reason to make her give up what she wanted in order to solve a bigger problem. Only trouble was, I couldn't think of a logical way to connect the two. Why couldn't she solve the problem on her own, with her own resources? Why would she have to go back and ask for help?

Well, that's what the writing is all about. Answering those questions.
It's sending the story along a different path, but it's a path I can see again, and one that includes all the goals and conflicts we'd started with. Knowing I had that much right, . I took the time to jot some random notes and plot points, and had the AHA! moment after two sentences.

I e-mailed my thoughts to my daughter last night. We'll see what we come up with. And what else I'll learn along the way.

(And as a follow-up to yesterday, I'm home today writing--but also waiting for the cable/tv guy. I was going half-blind trying to watch the tennis matches yesterday, so I broke down and called to complain. They have an 11-2 window for me today. This morning, the cable modem light was blinking again, despite yesterday's repairman's assurances that he'd fixed everything and it wouldn't happen again, so I spent about 20 minutes getting through to customer service to make sure whoever they sent could handle both television and internet issues. Wish me luck!)


Jess said...

How goes the repairs? And, how goes the plot?

Terry Odell said...

Plot is moving along. Over 1700 words so far. The guy showed up at 1:57 pm. Took him an hour to figure out he can't find the problems. Suspects there's a cut in the wire somewhere. Has to call in another 'contractor' to replace the wiring in the attic. We'll see when that happens.

Jess said...

ew. attic wiring. not fun. I made Iain clear out the attic before he left. :) No ladders for me!

Ray said...

You have to have it together to blog about your troubles with customer service and continue with your novel rather than give up in frustration and tear your hair out just before you go postal.

You must be one of the most even tempered people on earth.


Terry Odell said...

Like the new picture!

Terry Odell said...

Ray --

Even tempered? Moi? LOL. Talk to my husband!

I think the blog-vents keep me from going too outwardly postal. I know I meant to be writing about writing but grumbling helps. (Note my response to your comment on yesterday's post for the next chapter in the never ending saga of customer care.

Jess said...

technically it's an older picture. but i wasn't having the best of hair days for the previous one. :)

even-tempered? really?