Saturday, October 11, 2014

... IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS

(Jody Feldman's Take on October's Theme)


I could talk about things spooky, I could talk about things creepy, but there may be no greater mystery than the mind; especially how  the mind (at least mine) tends to work on several levels at once without really alerting you it’s doing that. Here’s a for-instance.

I finished a first draft of a new middle-grade novel this past Wednesday. Now, saying it’s a first draft may be insulting to any other first draft I’ve even written. Many of the details currently look like this: ADD A HISTORICAL FACT. Or SOLVE PROBLEM HERE. I’m almost terrified to go back and count the number of all-cap instructions this one has. Another issue—and one much more major— is story’s totally lack of consistency in the arcs of both the plot and the main character.

And because nothing builds as it should, the perfect ending—one that magically came to me before I had written the first chapter—didn’t have that chest-rumbling, gut-smiling satisfaction I expected. It’s not the ending’s fault. I hadn’t yet done the necessary work to do it justice.

And then came the internal dialogue:

It’s a first draft, right? I can still fix it.
Are you sure? Are you sure you can fully integrate the true life story of one kid with that of a totally made-up, off-the-cuff plot of another? Seriously?
I think I might be able to fix it.
But where are the parallels between the two kids? What if there are none?

Um.
Didn’t you think to plot that out first? Didn’t you think to outline the true story on half the paper then craft the fictional portion on the other half to see if the two stories could satisfactorily coexist?
Yes, but each time I sat down to do that, something told me to move forward with the story instead.
Some mystery force just moved your fingers on the keyboard like it knew what it was doing?
Something like that.
And how’s that working for you?
*Shakes head.*
Say what?
*Shakes head again.*
Maybe you need to scrap it. Maybe you need to start over.
*Shakes head harder.*
Yep. Start over.
*Grabs pen; turns over used envelope.*
Ha! Starting over. Yes!
*Jots down thoughts.*
Two minutes later.
Ha to you! Look. Eight parallels! The timing may be off a little, but there they are! They exist!
You got lucky. They magically appeared. It's voodoo, I tell you. Or some mysterious force of nature.
Exactly.

8 comments:

  1. Love this! I always experience that fear that I CAN'T solve whatever problem lies in my first/second/third draft. And then I express that "out loud" in my writer's notebook, or really out loud to my writer's group, and then the answer comes. But first I have to allow myself to say, "I don't know," or "I can't." And then I can.

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    1. You are braver than I am, Laurie. All this stuff happens in the background for me and I rarely say it out loud. Or maybe I'm just more stubborn. Regardless, I've yet to meet a writer without those niggling doubts.

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  2. The more books I publish, the more doubts appear. (What is it with that???)

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    1. I think we're just wiser, Holly. We've written more, been edited more, and understand that it can, and how it can, be so much better. Either that, or the fear of venturing into Idea Wasteland.

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  3. Loved this internal dialogue: "And how's that working for you?" And then the realization that maybe, just maybe, it can be made to work, after all....

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  4. Great post--and so true to life for me, too!

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    1. It's amazing how universal some thoughts and practices are. Thanks, Annie!

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