Working on a novel is never easy. NEVER. Parts will trick you and come like a breeze. Maybe for some, it’s easier than others, but for most of us, there is a lot of head-banging. I’m surprised my walls aren’t red.
The writing community divides writers into Team Plotter (those who plot their stories out before writing) and Team Pants (those who explore their story as they write — on the seat of their pants). I’m neither. My process is a jumbled mess. The real reason why no books have been published yet. For me, the story comes in pieces. And rarely in chronological order.
My series world, The ImmorTales, has many pieces and many stories. An epic scope. Each book stars a different immortal character. Finding a story for book 1 was quite the journey. I wrote an intro book before the world exploded, rendering the manuscript to the slash pile, and I wrote a prequel book, but that’s hardly a starting point. Book 1, working title “Lucy’s Story”, started out as a standalone in The ImmorTales world. The standalone was conceived as a quick write, a “Little Mermaid” retelling. Unfortunately, the leads were forced characters. However, as I explored via snips (character writing) Lucy emerged as the shining star, her voice clear and scenes played out in my head. The lead role was recast, and Lucy became the protagonist. Not a decision I took lightly.
(I wrote about the recasting here and you can read about writing “snips” here)
Lucy, as the lead, transformed a standalone novel into book 1. She can carry the series forward because of what she brings to the table. Major happy dance on that discovery. However… you knew this was coming… I’d already plotted a novel from start to finish with Jury and Rici. Essentially, there were two stories formulated from all the story pieces. The history and character dynamics stayed the same. But weaving two plots didn’t gel together. I’m a big believer that The Muse gives us story pieces for a reason — they are meant to be, gospel in nature. Story pieces can be moulded and reshaped as needed, but they are a piece of the story puzzle. These pieces shouldn’t be confused with the story filler our logic brains create to act as bridges between story pieces. Story filler should be binned as required, to allow for new ways to connect the story pieces.
Storylines don’t always work together. The solution is usually to cut storylines and assign them to a sequel or another book. In my case, the characters are so interwoven with a shared history, isolating the storylines is not an option. Closing in those plot gaps was a nightmare. Not everything fits. Too much story. Ugh, why do I do this to myself?
Last week I hyper-focused on my blogs — revamping, social media, and looking at blog stats. My brain untangled herself from “Lucy’s Story”. So much for Preptober (October is spent plotting and preparing for the National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, in November). Over the weekend, I sat with “Lucy’s Story” wandering how to weave Jury’s storyline. It’s been hindering my process — All. Freaking. Year.
WHAM, The Muse — Can’t you just alter Jury and Rici’s timeline? Make their past the present for Lucy’s Story?
When stuck on plot weaving, free the brain and focus on something else for a week
A slap forehead moment. Altering the timeline keeps the story pieces intact and allows me to explore another part of the world in a sequel. I’m thankful but damn, why couldn’t The Muse cough this little nugget up months ago? You know, to save my time and sanity.
When stuck on joining story pieces, try altering the timeline of one of the storylines
One timeline shift makes “Lucy’s Story” fall into place. I have a complete summary of the novel from start to finish with different threads weaved. Nothing is set in stone, but I like a formed story that can be bastardised along the way. The very first novel I ever attempted, I knew what the story was about in a generic sense but at about 25% in, my protagonist froze and scratched her butt… and that was that —true story. With completed summaries, I have completed manuscripts, five of them (not including screen scripts). The key is to allow for changes to be made while writing. Of course, everyone’s writing process is different and no two books are the same.
Full steam ahead. Quite looking forward to November, aka, Slit My Wrists Month (disclaimer: Tannille is being melodramatic). NaNoWriMo should be a blast. Maybe I’ll actually finish a manuscript this year by focusing. (My NaNoWriMo username is Tannille, if you want to
stalk follow me).
What sort of writer are you? Team Plot, Team Pants, or Team Puzzle?
Categories: Characters, plotting, Writers' Tool Box, Writing, Writing Battles
For all the agony those stubborn storylines cause, isn’t it so sweet when things fall into place?
I’m a hybrid of the plotter and seat-of-the-pants writer. I have written up outlines and pages of notes, but as you said, the pieces don’t always flow. So I just start writing and hope I figure it out before hit a dead zone. I also write and completely forget where I’m supposed to be going and end up somewhere completely different from where I started. Other things seem set in stone and impossible for my mind to accept changes that may improve the story because “that’s not how it goes.”
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I think most people fall into a middle ground. Big stories I need a road map Most of my flash fiction I pants. My last story I wrote the ending first. https://tannille.com/2022/10/19/flash-fiction-the-disappearance-of-ellie-watson/
I absolutely agree with some elements being set in stone. Sometimes it makes sense to change but the brain keeps reverting to the original idea. Time can help.
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I prefer to write the ending first. What good is a map if you don’t know where you’re going? It’s not always what sparks my interest in writing the story. It often comes in pieces, as you said, but knowing the beginning and ending sure help those pieces fall into place.
Time will erode those stones.
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For me, endings and beginnings are easy. Beginnings are some what logical as in they set up what is to come. Endings conclude what has come. The middle is the battle.