As great as it feels to have figured out the problem with my story, it doesn’t actually make the solution all that easy.
I’m a lazy writer. Most of my story ideas come from dreams, and my main skill is transferring the vague and often disjointed visions into something that I enjoy reading.
With this story, I know the beginning and I know the second half. I’m finding that there’s a lot of stuff that needs to come between those two points for the story to both make sense and flow well. Stuff like ‘why did the villain do X?’, ‘why do the good guys not see the problem?’, ‘why does MC care?’. When you add in the need for some exposition and world-building, it becomes obvious just how big a section this is.
I’m used to relying on the dream sequences to give the story shape; they tend to have just enough shadowy structure that I can drag a real plot out of them. When I don’t have enough story, I’ll wait till my subconscious can throw something together, something that can take years. That’s how lazy I am.
I do know how to write without inspiration, it’s just that I’ve just always separated the two. With a story that is dream-inspired, I try to match the ‘feel’ of the dream and build on the bedrock of the story that I found there. With a a consciously directed story, I’m more willing to experiment and grope around for the plot.
Trying to mix the two feels weird. Is this what maturity feels like?
Wen Spencer, one of my favourite authors, has long advocated for writers to join a writers’ group*. I’m coming to really appreciate this advice, as I find that I’m getting a lot out of the local critique group I belong to. I just wish we met more frequently (as in having a the second monthly meeting that’s more of a writerly chat than critique).
I was thinking about this because I’m finding the group has really made me think about the story I’ve been submitting (we submit a chapter or less each month). There’s the basic level of ‘grammar/tense/spelling’, but I’m also finding myself examining things like story structure, plot arc a lot more deeply.
This isn’t always a happy thing, lol. The story I’ve been submitting is mostly unwritten (no surprise), but I never could quite put my finger on why. Examining it for the purpose of sharing with the group put it under the microscope, and now I know the problem; I’m missing a section.
I’d written the beginning, glossed over the next bit, and built a fairly strong plot line. I realize now that the glossed over bit is the problem. The future plot stuff? It’s the middle to end of the story. The glossed over bit, which in my head was little more than a bridging chapter, has to be more than that. It has to be the section where the characters are established, clues are mentioned, and the worldbuilding is done. In other words, that ‘bridging chapter’ needed to be the first half of the novel.
I’ve been trying to jump from the opening scene to the middle of the story. No wonder it wasn’t getting written; my inner critic was keeping me from making a huge mistake.
So yay, now I know what I need to be working on. Now I just have to actually figure out what will get me from point A to point C.
* Many writers advocate this, but Wen’s the one who mentioned this recently on her Patreon, so I’m going with her.