Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Story That Never Starts

The other day, one of my readers commented about using a more fluid index card/storyboard way of outlining. So I thought I'd try something a little more freeform. Now, I do everything on the computer. Otherwise, I have all these pieces of paper floating around. So here’s what I did.

I wrote, each in their own text box so I could move them, all the events that needed to happen. And then I rearranged them into an order that made sense. Then I added some more text boxes that describe the characters state of mind. In this particular story, it's whether or not he cares about things.

Then, once I had them arranged the way I liked, I headed on over to PowerPoint to make a visual. In a perfect world, I'd use Publisher or maybe InDesign if I was feeling fancy. But PowerPoint is what I have on my tablet.

And here is the result:

Isn't it pretty? Obviously, it's not perfect, but A) it's a solid start, and B) it proves that I can, in fact, make an outline.

It became not so much "Is this the first plot point? Or the second pinch point?" Rather I had the χ2-distribution looking arc (I will not apologize for making statistics references), with the climax at the highest point, and fit the sequence of events to that by… I don't know, feel? Like, how much tension and excitement  each step should have. And it seems to have worked out all right.

I haven't started the rewriting yet. I know, I know, I'm a slacker. But this is a second draft. So I have to do things right this time, or something.

I think I've only ever made one attempt at a second draft. It was a Camp NaNo project from 2013. In summary, a guy falls through a rift in the universe, some things happen, and… then he gets home, maybe. Now, the difference between drafts one and two was the "things" that happen. I didn't like how draft one went, so in draft two, some other things happened. And… I didn't like that either. I knew what I didn't want, but I didn't know what I did want. So I never really finished that story.

That's my fear with revisions. I know when something's not working, but I usually don’t know how to make it work. In this case, I casually put in the outline that there's some escape route. Well, that was never part of the original, so I have no idea what it is.

Now, they say you'll have to revise several times. Dozens of times, even. So I don’t know why I think I have to get it right on the second try. Maybe I figure if I can't make it readable by then, it's a lost cause.

So I'm afraid to start, even though it’s already started. I'm not saying it's logical.

My NaNo projects are much easier. See, with NaNo, you expect that whatever you’re about to write is going to be at least 40% crap. You accept it. So, I don’t dwell on finding the perfect words. I just pick some words, throw them on the page, and go with it. The whole point is just to get words, and get them down. But second drafts… oh boy. A second draft is a step towards real readers who read real books with their real eyes. (I initially wrote "read real books with their real eyebrows." That's… wrong.) Now, real stories that will be read by real people need to have the perfect words. Each and every sentence has to pull its weight and move the story forward and make the reader feel some feeling. Each and every one. And that's a lot of pressure. So I sit back and plot and avoid writing that first sentence.

Because it has to be perfect. Or something. I'm not saying it's logical.

I'll see you Friday. Maybe I'll have found the courage to pick up my pen, uh… keyboard.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a great start! Reminds me of Vonnegut's "The Shape of Stories".
    Don't worry about finding the perfect words yet - the first rewrite is still organizing the bones and adding meat to the story. It doesn't have to be pretty yet.
    Lastly, I'm continually amazed at the motivation you have to write consistently. That's the Achilles' heel of many aspiring writers (myself included).
    Keep being awesome!