Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Two steps forward, one step back

I wrote last month that I was intending to work on sorting out the chapter order of the second half of my latest children's book, The Disenchanted Wizard.

That was the plan, and I did it. But then along came my co-author, and her opinion of the second half of the book was that it wasn’t at all on a par with the first half. (In fact while she wasn't rude about it, she might as well have been.) I could only agree: there were weak spots, the climax was merely a repeat of an earlier episode with a bit more drama, and the characters had gone round in a circle to come back to where they started when they should have been moving forward.

Quite disheartening, and for a few days I couldn’t see a way forward. However, I began doing something an author called Peter Elbow had suggested in a book (Writing without Teachers) that I’ve had for many years: write and keep on writing even if it seems total nonsense, because at some point in the writing you’ll start to find ways forward again.

Well, I did do this, and it worked up to a point, and then I felt as though it was getting sticky all over again. I tried several creative approaches, things suggested as ways to get the brain functioning in just such a situation, and out of these emerged an idea of discussing the book with one of the characters. In this case, the villain himself.

This proved productive (when he stopped sulking about not being the hero), and more progress was made. And then when he seemed to want to go off and do something else, I began talking to a ‘person’ I called the ‘Outliner’, that is a person who prefers to write books by working them out in advance. (I tend to be a writer who likes to write and see what happens...)

The Outliner and I are still discussing things, and bit by bit solutions are coming to light. My co-author and I (yes, she’s a real person!) will get together and start discussing these things face to face and hopefully will make real progress, working out how the second half is going to function.

Her perennial phrase to me is: You Can Do Better. And she’s right. So that’s what I’m aiming to do currently.
Onward and upward.

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