Sometimes Progress is Little Steps
When I first started working on this WIP (which really needs a working title!), I read Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel (my review here) and spent a chunk of time with his workbook of the same name. In the course of doing some of the workbook exercises, I wrote a few actual scenes–trying to get closer to my hero’s needs, personality, and her narrative voice.
Honestly, I like those scenes. It’s easier, I think, to write a scene that isn’t yet connected to what has come before or what will come after. It’s easier to get in touch with the prose and the voice, because you’re worrying less–at that point–about how it all fits together. It’s a more free kind of word play, I think, which is always fun.
Of course, as I get further into the book (I hit page 150 today–whee!), I’m coming up to some of those scenes, finding a place to fit them into the story as I’m learning it now. And, equally of course, I was right–so much of the stuff I wrote back them doesn’t mesh, doesn’t tie up with where Caro is, who she’s become. So what I end up doing is pasting the old scene into the new, keeping some or all of the setting and pieces of the action, then doing a quick “rewrite” of the dialogue and narration. Yes, quick, because it’s still the first draft, and, hoo-boy, is this baby going to change next time around.
But…Oh, come on, you knew there was going to be a but. Here’s what’s also happening. I’m further along with Caro. I still don’t know whether the things she’s doing and thinking should be showing up for the first time this late in the book (Oh, wait, I do know. They shouldn’t!), but at least she’s doing and thinking them. Yes, she’s probably acting with too much melodrama, thinking too much about this stuff instead of saying it out loud in conversation and argument, but I can take the melo away from the drama later, and I can move things into dialogue in another draft.
The thing is, she’s further along than she was before, than when I was just starting to know her through Maass’ workbook exercises, through those early disconnected scenes. Yes, sometimes it feels like I’m playing Mother May I, and the only steps I’m being allowed to take are the baby ones, but I’m inching forward.
What makes you feel like you’re getting closer to the heart of your story, to the truth of your characters, even when the end goal seems far away? How do you know you’re on a track, any track, even if you’re not sure it’s the “right” one?