Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rebuilding the Tower

Sorry this post is up late. I got distracted looking at fancy bookcases, and then by various methods of execution (this is fairly normal for me). But here I am, at last.

I've been thinking more about The Tower, my 2011 NaNo novel with only five good chapters. I've been thinking about how to fix it. Should the jewel heist become the main plot, or should something else follow the theft? I'm leaning toward the latter, because I don't think I can stretch a simple museum robbery to fill an entire novel. There's a reason it only takes one chapter.

Now, when writing from scratch, I usually have an idea for a plot, or characters, and occasionally both. With this one, I have the beginning of the plot, and some decent characters. There's Leighton Edward Blackmore III, museum curator and generally creepy guy. There's Ciarán MacClellan, Irish thief and man with a plan. And of course, there's Zel Van Toren, six year resident of the Tower and a bit antisocial for it.

And she's the problem of the story, I think. She's been in prison while Ciarán's been running around free. He finally comes back for her. She's understandably pissed that it took him so long. She agrees to help him with the jewel theft because she needs the money.

She's ostensibly supposed to be the main character, because she is literally Rapunzel in the tower. That's why she has such a weird name. But she doesn't seem to have an overabundance of personality or motivation. The story doesn't even want to follow her half the time. The majority of it actually follows Ciarán  instead. Her biggest problem, and proof that she is from one of my earlier attempts, is that she has a lot in common with me. She has long hair (she's Rapunzel, after all), so do I. She's sarcastic. She pretends not to care when she actually does. Hell, she dresses in dark colors. This is a problem. And I don't know how to fix it. I mean, I guess I could remove her entirely and just write a story about a jewel theft, but why? That's not so much revision anymore. I could just change everything about her, but to what?

My other struggle with this story is the title. I very much like the title. The problem is that not a lot actually happens in the Tower. They leave it at the beginning. In the first draft there was a bunch of Dantean nonsense that occurred under the Tower, in an effort to make it relevant again. But, as I said, nonsense.

I really want to do something with this story, but the more bits of crap I pluck out, the more I realize how little is left. It's like I've gone from a down comforter to a handful of feathers. This is usually how it goes when I try to revise something.

I sit down and say, "Okay, let's just sift out the junk." So I pull out the scenes that don't work (or that I think people wouldn't like), the pointless dialogue, the characters that aren't pulling their weight.

"There, much better," I say, and look at what I have left. It should only be the best parts, ready to be transformed into an awesome story. But what I find is two characters, one great description, and a bunch of sassy dialogue. That's a far cry from a novel.

Maybe the moral of the story is that I shouldn't write so much crap the first time around, so my story won't be so skeletal when I take it out. Trust me, I'm trying. I would love to write a killer first draft that just needs a little shifting and polishing. I think outlining might be the key here. If I know how the story goes before I write it, maybe I wouldn't have so much meandering junk while I try to figure out where I'm going.

I know this whole "figuring out what the hell I'm doing" thing is taking a long time. I'm not happy with it either. But I'm doing what I can, and I'll see you Friday.

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