Leveling Up on Craft (Hopefully)

I wrote this post just before the election. And since then it has felt off and unimportant and irrelevant to be sticking it up on the Internet. It felt all of that to even be prioritizing my writing. But as I talked about here, creativity is still important, even if all it does is let us fall into a good place for a while so we can step back out and do battle. And maybe it’s important for the impact it has on our readers.

Anyway, I wrote a little bit last weekend, and that did help. This week and next are regular-life-busy, and I think still having all this other crud in my head makes the focus and time commitment harder. But regular-life will settle down and I will carve pieces of time and focus out to stick with my WIP and make progress. Because…and here’s what I was thinking about way back when.

I had a realization the other day. Well, kind of a two-fold realization. The first part was that I love this WIP enough and am writing some stuff in it that, I think, means it could be–if not The Book that gets me out there–the book that takes me to the next level of my writing.

The second part of the realization was that it could just as easily NOT be. I feel like I’m at the point where I can make just about any scene work–as a scene. I can create conflict, I can pull the balance of dialogue and action together, I can polish the words until they shine in an actual good way. But…I also feel like I could be doing that into infinity and beyond, over and over and over, without somehow making the story work as a whole. I can make tension build to a turning point in a chapter, but I’m not all that sure I can do it well/right over the story as a whole. I can produce, if need be, a set of perfectly fine, even good, chapters that still don’t make a book that holds together, that engages over all the pages, that keeps people reading to the end.

And I kind of want to do that.

So this next year is about getting off the plateau I’m on and climbing to the next peak.

climbing

The first step in this path, I can identify: Finish this draft, with care. I’m on Draft 3, and it’s the first one that feels like…something. I’m making myself slow down, get to some actual depth in each scene, reach for that truth about my main character and his journey. So steady progress on this, but without rushing, that’s where I’m at.

And then…I don’t know. I know there’s a new/different kind of learning for me here, and I know that recognizing the goal is a good thing. But I still don’t see the steps of the path clearly. I will probably do some more reading/re-reading of craft books–so if you have any new ones to suggest, please stick the titles in the comments! I am looking into more in-depth workshops and learning programs–specifically, I’m waiting to hear about next year’s Nevada SCBWI mentoring program. I may end up hiring a good editor, but that may stretch the old budget a bit too far. And I will ask my critique group and possibly some Beta readers to do a whole-manuscript read, focusing on the connections and the overall story arcs.

So I expect I’ll be exploring all this here at the blog. And I’d love to hear from any of you who have found yourself at a place where you wanted to level up–what you tried, what worked, what didn’t…it’s all helpful and good to hear about!

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