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Posts Tagged ‘discovery writer’

This is another on of those discovery writer issues–but a good one. I’m still writing out some of the consequences of that escape in my last post. For Kaleran. But also, as I consider it, this little contretemps is likely to set the antagonist off balance. Maybe make him do something . . . ill-considered, hasty. Which, actually, is just about what should happen at about the midpoint of the story, in this case BECOME: TO RIDE THE STORM.

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The trick will be to keep it from precipitating things too fast, because this is still only the midpoint. But, I think I’ve got that covered by what a couple of other characters are about to do next.

This is why I’m still a (mostly) discovery writer. I love discovering the story while I’m writing it. This is what keeps it fun for me.

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I introduced Kaleran in this post. He’s not behaving according to plan. And it started right there.

His character arc in BECOME: TO RIDE THE STORM was supposed to be a redemption arc. The character who was deceived into the wrong path but changed sides in time.

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He’s not playing along with that plan at all. And I’m not really surprised after that start. This is what sometimes happens to a discovery writer. Characters go off script and, since the script itself–A.K.A. the outline–is very vague anyway, there’s less chance of reining them back around.

Very often, though, I find I prefer what flows over what I had planned, anyway. More often than not, it feels more authentic for the character. And this is still only a first draft. Anything can be changed in the revisions. (Some changes just involve more pain.) So, I’m going to see where this leads. Who knows, events may still lead him back to where I planned for him to go. Or to someplace better.

Fortunately, the other characters are so far sticking to the script.

 

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Earlier this week, I paused briefly in writing the first draft of BECOME: TO RIDE THE STORM, because I had to figure something out.

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Discovery writer problems.

I knew I needed someone to help one particular POV character (let’s call him Kal). Someone who is not the person who is supposed to be responsible for his training, etc. But I hadn’t figured out who this other character would be. It needed to be someone with a prior association with the Kal’s parents. And then it hit me. In the very first chapter of BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING, I have someone who is rescued by Kal’s father. Someone who would probably have known Kal’s mother.  Someone who has a loyalty to Kal’s Grandmother (there’s a reason that’s capitalized). Someone who, in short, is perfect for the role of shadow guardian.

I didn’t name this other character in BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING, but that’s easily fixed, since the manuscript is out with my critique partners and there will certainly be another round of revisions when it comes back. I can even give this character a small additional part, easily enough.

I haven’t written this chapter that I needed to figure out yet because I ultimately decided that it will come a little later in the timeline. But now I know enough to write it when I get there.

Meantime, I have to move Kal’s brother into position for the next main event.

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I think my subconscious is smarter than me.  For two reasons.

1.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a modified discovery writer, so you’d think, perhaps, that I don’t concern myself with story structure. You’d be wrong. Instead of planning–and outlining–a story following the three-act structure or any other, I usually look at the structure of a story I’ve already written to see where it needs to be tweaked.

Now, my current series is a little bit of a departure for me. DUAL MAGICS is a conventional series made up of four books which each tell a story that together make up a larger arc of the entire series.

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BECOME . . . BECOME is more one story that has a significant break in time–almost twenty years–and therefore falls naturally into two books . . . sort of.

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And frankly, this made me a little nervous. It’s really hard to keep the first book from ending on a cliff-hanger. And, as a reader, I hate cliff-hangers. They make me feel like my arm is being twisted to force me to buy the next book just to see what happens. And that doesn’t sit well with my Scots-Irish blood even if I would have bought the next book anyway. I’ve worried that without a clear conflict for this book it would be virtually impossible to bring BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING to a satisfying interim resolution. And I worried that without that conflict–apart from the overall arc of the series–the story sort of meandered. And, to tell the truth, that worry was part of the reason this book has taken so long to write.

So, yesterday, as I was starting the read-through of BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING, I tried and experiment. I just looked at the one-eighth marks, where major plot points should happen, to see if there was something there that I could build up into a conflict for this book. And what do you know? It was right there all the time. It’s an interior conflict for my main character, but it’s a separate conflict that ties into the main conflict of the two-book series. I’ll need to add a bit here and there to pull it up into the light. But the main plot points fall pretty close to all the right places. Now, as I continue the read-through, I’ll be making notes on where I need to add a few internal thoughts or a bit of dialog to just bring this conflict up where it can be seen.

2.

Chekov’s Gun. You know, “If there’s a gun over the mantle in the first act, someone has to fire it by the third act.” Or something very like that.

Well, I’d thrown a character into the middle of BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING. He’s a character who made a brief appearance in BECOME: BROTHERS. I didn’t have any particular reason for reusing him. He did provide a minor complication, but . . . just being there, again, and causing that little problem made him important. Like Chekov’s gun. And I thought I’d probably take him out in the revisions for that reason.

Nope. While I was starting the first draft of BECOME: TO RIDE THE STORM, wouldn’t you know that same character turned up again. And he’s in a perfect position to set off a major part of the main conflict.

I swear I didn’t plan that. But I’m sure going to use it.

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Well, so far I haven’t achieved either the daily goal of NaNoWriMo–1,667 words a day–or my personal goal of a chapter a day. More like a scene a day. But that is still making more progress on BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING than I have been lately.

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I have excuses, but, except for Thursday, which really was too busy to get much writing done, they are just that–excuses. Except for one.

One of the issues I have always had with arbitrary goals of the form x number of words a day, especially when embedded in the competitiveness of something like National Novel Writing Month, is that it encourages just getting words down whether they’re the right words or not. Now, that’s not entirely a bad thing with a first draft. I love Shannon Hale’s quote on this:

I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.

However, there’s one time when “just keep writing” is very bad advice: when it’s taking you down the wrong rabbit trail. (Not a problem outliners are as susceptible to as discovery writers, like me.) Then, “just keep writing” can make it much harder to come back and fix the story in the revisions.

And I think I just dodged a rabbit trail. You see, where I am right now in this story, my characters are on a sort of Grand Tour, visiting the rulers of all the neighboring countries.

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They start out from Juturna, which is their home–well, home to two of them. They pick up a third on their first stop in Versenna. That trip through the forest and what happens once they reach Versenna is absolutely critical to the rest of the story. Then they go over the mountains to Khatar. I have a few interesting things happen in the mountains and Khatar will be important later in the story. Fine, so far. And I was reasonably close to my NaNo goals that far.

But then they have to go south to Farea and Idun and finally back to Juturna. Um. Boring. Nothing very important was going to happen there. And if I’m bored there’s no chance of keeping a reader’s attention.

So, I can either skip over that and just pick them up arriving back in Juturna, where my main character expects to face some consequences for his decisions back in Versenna. And I could do that, but it feels wrong.

Or, I can make that part of the trip more interesting. And early this morning, my subconscious bubbled up the way to do that. It means I have to go back and change what I wrote yesterday–which won’t add to my word count. But it will mean the story is more interesting and add a complication/obstacle that could well turn up again later. I like it, so I’m going with it.

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After finishing that latest chapter in BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING, I was forced to pause for a few days to make a decision about point of view for the next one.

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Most of the story is told from the point of view of my Hercules-like character, Gaian. But there are a few other important POV characters, too. And, in this case, I finally decided that this chapter needs to be from the POV of one of those other characters–to wit, the love interest, Mariel.

See, they’re about to visit a neighboring country–a diplomatic visit, of sorts. This particular location isn’t especially important in this book, but it will be in the next. And, while Gaian will never go there again, Mariel will. So her impressions are more important to setting this up for the next book.

That seems obvious when I lay it out like that, but it wasn’t at first. Partly, I suppose, because Mariel had recently had a POV chapter. Doesn’t matter. This is what the story needs.

These are some of the problems of discovery writers. If I was an outliner, I’d have known that from the beginning. But outlines don’t work for me. I either abandon them when the story diverges from the outline at about Chapter Five, or I spend too much time updating them as the story continues to diverge.

Ah well, back to writing. This should be an interesting chapter since, after the experience with the very large lion, Gaian has decided that Mariel needs to learn to defend herself. Not that he’s not willing, able, and happy to defend her, but–in his opinion–everyone should feel confident that they can take care of themselves if necessary.

Poor Mariel. She thought it was hard getting over that mountain pass. She has no idea.

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It’s slow still, and perhaps a little painful, but I am breaking through that block of uncertainty and forging ahead on the first draft of BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING.

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I have no idea if any of this will remain in the final version. But that’s not the question right now. The point is to keep writing and moving the story forward. And that’s what I’m doing, slowly but surely.

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