After breathing, eating, sleeping, and seeing ONLY my novella for a few weeks, I finally managed to cross the finish. Remember that draft I mentioned doing in my last post? Draft #3? Well, I was finally onto something there…but it still wasn’t right. It took me one more almost complete rewrite…but at least THAT draft was it. And once I’d tapped into the right vein, the words and story just poured out exactly as they needed to be.
The thing is, this always happens to me. And I know it–I know that it’s simply a matter of me uncovering the proper story. Then everything tumbles out in a waterfall of near-perfect words. It happened with Something Strange & Deadly, with A Darkness Strange & Lovely, and with Screechers. It took me a few misses before I finally hit the “right story”. I knew this would happen with this novella, but goodness, it took me a lot longer to finally get my groove. I went through 2 total rewrites with Something Strange & Deadly and A Darkness Strange & Lovely. For Screechers, it was 3 total rewrites. And for this novella, it was 4 total rewrites.
And it hurts–every single time. When I finally hit the right story and everything vomits out of me in mere days, all I can think is, “DAMMIT. ALL THAT WASTED TIME!” I spent so many months and so much energy hammering away at something that I ultimately threw away. Ouch.
But I also know, I never would have found the proper story without all those terrible drafts. Something in me had to shift–and not just devoting all my creative attention to one project (though this undoubtedly helped). It was also a matter of finally letting go of a synopsis that wasn’t working.
Most important of all, though, it was a matter of finally listening to the characters and finding their voices. This sounds so EASY, but it really isn’t. Not for me. Not with books that start with plot–which is very much what contracted books are.
It takes me 100+ pages of hammering stuff out before I can slip into the character’s voice properly (or in the novella’s case, 200+ pages). And even though I “knew” Daniel, I just COULD NOT get seem to get inside his head. Everything I wrote worked on a purely mechanical level. I feel certain I could have turned in any one of those drafts…but it wouldn’t have been right. Something was missing–not least of which, my own enthusiasm which absolutely transcends the page–but a certain spark in Daniel’s voice. A certain sort of “this is what I choose to do in this story, and it makes total sense because this is who I am and you all know me from book 1”. Again, it seems like I should just know him. But I didn’t. All I knew was that what I was writing wasn’t him.
Until it all just suddenly came together in that gigantic AHA moment that always happens with me.
I wish I wrote differently. Goodness, it would be so much more efficient if all my books toppled out of me like Purely Platonic did. But that story came to me in a flurry of voices and desire–I knew what the characters needed and who they were. The same thing happened with a space opera I cowrote with Sarah Maas. Once I had spent a chapter or two finding Mel’s voice, everything she did to drive the plot just exploded naturally from me. For both books, I just had to pour out the story points as the characters drove me toward them. I was started with the who and ended with the what.
Which says a lot about me and my writing groove: I have to start with character.
I always thought I was someone who built from plot. Who crafted big, twisty plot points and then settled in the characters accordingly… And since that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last few books, that’s probably WHY THEY DIDN’T WORK. But when I finally let the intended plot go and just sank into the people and their desires, I found the plot and layers and twisty mysteries all evolved quite naturally.
I write from character. From voice. From the feeling in my heart that is also what my character’s feeling.
I am a pantser. I NEVER thought I would be, but…it seems that I am. A headlight plotter, at best.
It all seems so simple and obvious. O_O Like, why did it take me so many years to figure this all out?
But now, here’s to hoping that I can carry this realization into future stories.
You tell me: Have you ever realized the way you THOUGHT you wrote isn’t the way you ACTUALLY write? Have you ever tried to be a pantser when you’re really a plotter? Or vice versa?