It’s fall, so that means I’m firmly ensconced in classwork again, this time in two theory courses. Theory is an interesting thing; it’s such a wide-open world, and it’s exciting to plummet into the depths of it, but it doesn’t always translate well to practice. The goal of the program I’m in is to help translate theory into practice – something that’s sometimes easier said than done. That got me to musing a bit about my academic career…
There’s a story has been floating around in my head since I was in college, but recently took on a whole new life when I figured out a subplot that will work. This is a lesson I keep having to learn over and over – you can’t force a subplot. You can’t force any plot, really, but you can take down a perfectly good story by trying to weave in a subplot that just doesn’t want to be there.
In the middle of redrafting this novel for maybe the 5th or 6th time now, a subplot erupted out of nowhere, and I realized…THIS IS IT. This is the element that was missing, and it will tie in nicely with the conclusion of the story.
I built up other characters as well, threw them their twists and turns, exposed their darknesses, let them talk candidly about their desires. Let them hurt each other.
Something I’ve realized about writing – at least, about how I write – is that I have to wait until the right time to actually be able to pull out a story. I know I can write a 120,000 word manuscript – I’ve done it before. It’s not about achieving length, but achieving something that feels right and that I can work with. The stories in my queue right now are stories I gave up on, at various points.
But now’s the time for this story, and I have ideas about how to resurrect the other. And they will both be delightfully fucked up.
Of course, on the heels of having just complained about how grad school is wiping me out, this plan to complete a novel manuscript by Jan 1st feels daunting at times. But I have a choice here – I can give up, and cater to the whims of my autoimmune disease, or I can just keep pushing on, accepting that there will be times when I’ll need some extra rest, or when my brain just won’t be functional enough after work and school to be able to write.
Thing is…when something’s important, you dig your claws into it, and you don’t let go. You follow it obsessively, never letting it out of your sight. You impale it, if you have to, and drag its bloody carcass around behind you. But you never let it go.
And for me, that’s writing. Even if I never get anything published, I’ll keep doing it. It’s the act itself that’s more important than whether or not anything comes of it.
I spent this past weekend doing the 3-Day Novel contest, and it went better this year than it has in other years. I’ve had this particular story in my head for years now, and it felt good to get it down.
Though…I had a subplot failure right in the middle. Which, when you have only three days and you’re trying to reach a goal, is a little frustrating. But it was fine – ultimately, another subplot came to me that I think is infinitely better. I actually can’t wait to flesh it out more and see where it takes me. I’ve been thinking about this story for years, and the ideas I had always felt incomplete. I think this new piece is what was missing.
This novel could be the next one I query. I’d queried one a few years ago, and an agent broke protocol of not giving feedback to give me feedback – which I genuinely appreciated. (Some writers are defensive assholes…but I’ll listen to any constructive critique.) Ultimately I decided to put that project aside, and I started writing simply for the sake of writing.
And honestly, that was a really good thing, and I’m glad I forgot all about querying and publishing and target audience. I just wrote, no thought to what would happen to it, just digging into stories and stretching my creative limits. I wrote with no intention of anyone ever reading what I was writing. I wrote for myself.
But I think this one is one I’m going to try to get back out there with. And I think I’m way better at writing now than I was a few years ago, because I cocooned myself and just practiced and practiced and practiced.
I’m tired as hell, but feeling satisfied.