Saturday, May 16, 2009

At Least I Don’t Have a Book Deal…

This morning I attempted the fifth beginning of the total revision (new characters, new situations, twice the fun!) of my novel "American Standard" (I’m changing that title, so feel free to take it). Five times I’ve put my main character through different versions of similar actions and introductions. Tomorrow morning I plan on starting a sixth. It’s like creating six alternate realities for my character; each version would spin my character off in a new direction. Which bizarro world can I create today? It doesn’t matter if none of them is the right one.

What’s disturbing is that I’ve never had a problem starting a novel. It was always the other stuff that gave me trouble. It was the middle and end that slowed me down. Stopped me dead. Put me away for years of head scratching. But without a beginning, I don’t get the chance to revise an ending.

The stupid part is I know where the novel’s story really begins, when my main character meets the supporting character who will change his life forever. And I just can’t let myself jump ahead a few scenes and get down to it. I’m stuck introducing my main character over and over again, my own little Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, and it’s not working. I can hear you now: drop it like it’s hot, and just write the damn scene where these two characters meet.

I can’t. I mean, I can’t yet. I have yet to exhaust all my ideas at an opening. I’m linear, is my problem. I write front to back, beginning to end. It’s just the way I’m wired. And it makes thing woefully structured sometimes.

My sister, romantic suspense writer Cynthia Sherrick, told me once that she will skip ahead and write the end of the novel (or at least one of the final scenes) then go back and fill in the rest of the story, using that last scene as a guide. I like that idea. I’m not sure how my story will end, so I probably won’t go that far. But I should trust the story I want to tell, and allow myself to break this construct I’ve surrounded myself with and jump ahead a few scenes. Who knows, maybe this scene I have in mind is the real beginning of the novel and I won’t need to go in and back fill? Only one way to tell.

I know this is the beginning of at least a year’s worth of work, just to get another draft. If I can get the thing out of first gear, that is. There is another novel I’d like to write, and if I wait too long spinning around the track with "American Standard," that other story might take over. I want to finish one project before starting the next. So that’s why I say I’m glad I don’t have a book deal, where I’m supposed to get a book written by a certain date, with an agent, editor, and publisher breathing down my neck. That’s pressure I’m not sure I could stand. That’s my spin at not having an agent or a book deal right now. At least I have the luxury of time to write what I want to write.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

How’s your writing going? Tell me all. I want details. Are beginnings the most difficult part for you? Or do endings slow you down?


Cynthia Sherrick said...

Hmmm... difficult to give suggestions on a story I haven't read. ;)
You know what I will tell you, however: Write the scene where the two characters first meet. Perhaps the beginning will fall into place....or just maybe you're telling the story through the wrong character. Just a thought.

Can't wait to hear more about it! :)

Cynthia Sherrick said...

In regards to my own writing, I have trouble with my middles. That's one reason I write the ending -- to help me flesh out the long ride in the middle. :)

Dell Smith said...

Hi Cynthia. Interesting how you say I might be telling the story from the wrong character's POV: that's how I wrote the first draft. It had its charms, but it ended up being to close, with no room for the reader to step back and get a better view of the character, motivations, etc. So I'm switching it up, so we can see this very strong character (some will say too strong) through another's POV.

Henriette Power said...

Dell, I had a similar situation, as you know, with my two manuscripts. In the end, I decided to go ahead and write the other one that was itching at me. Then I went back to the first one, and now I'm back at the second one because there's just too much work remaining on the first one. And who wants to hold up a whole novel in order to go back and do heavy lifting on another manuscript? That's my current strategy. I think I must not be as patient as you are :-)

I'll definitely be looking forward to seeing a new draft of American Standard, when you have it ready.

Dell Smith said...

I hope to have 100 pages ready for the fall. I also hope to have some pages ready in another month or so for group. We shall see. Patience is something that doesn't come naturally to us writers. Patience, like writing, is work.