Motivation Monday: Experimentation

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While #spookyromancenovel is off being dissected by my hard-working beta readers, I’ve been cooling my heels a little in terms of project writing. I’m writing a lot of blog posts and Tumblr bits and some journal entries, but until last week I hadn’t done much work on anything book-like.

Then, after years of ignoring it after my last failed attempt to Plan A Real Novel, I dug up an article on the Snowflake Method and dove into what could possibly become a sequel to #spookyromancenovel. I tried to use it to develop a plot bunny back in 2015, when What We Need to Survive didn’t look like it was going to get off the ground and I wanted to write about a photographer finding a new model at his local bakery and falling in love with her. I wrote the first scene, the meet-cute, as it were, and had no idea where to go from there, so I turned to the Snowflake. And it failed me miserably–either it’s not suited to me, or I wasn’t ready for something so intense.

But I’m revisiting it now, four years later, for the potential successor to #spookyromancenovel.

It’s a standalone currently, and it may remain a standalone. I have vague story ideas about romances involving some of its side characters, who turned out to be a such an interesting and vibrant bunch that I’d be sad not to give them their own books, their own shots at love.

But I pantsed the hell out of #spookryomancenovel with a month worth of prompts to guide me, then another month of “I think I know where this is going now, I have to finish it.” I planned nothing aside from the fact that, as a romance, there would be a happy ending.

So why am I trying to plan the next one? And why am I using one of the most effort-intensive planning methods out there?

Well, first of all, to be entirely fair, I’ve started planning. I haven’t finished. I’ve worked up the one-sentence summary, turned it into the five-sentence paragraph, extended that into a character-based overview of the plot. What I have not done is the bulk of the expansion process–a full synopsis, a scene breakdown, rough sketches of those scenes, etc. I’m still in the shallow end. I don’t know that I’ll finish–there’s still plenty of time to jump off the SS Snowflake and try to write based on the work I’ve already done.

But the desire to arm myself for this (possible) second book in the series comes out of the frustration of the rewriting process from #spookyromancenovel. I didn’t plan anything. It makes rewriting hell to find out you forgot entirely about a plot thread a third of the way through the story and never picked it up again, because you were barreling through your first draft like hell hounds were biting at your ankles. It stinks when you have a crappy timeline that doesn’t make any sense and is a complete pain to reconcile with actual linear time because you didn’t remember that fall turns into winter when you set your story in a place with seasons but neglect to allow time to pass physically even when your narrative says “Three weeks later…”

My second draft was put-together enough to get some initial feedback, sure, and I’m happy with a lot of the plot, a lot of the scenes, but not how rough it all still feels around the edges. It’s less of a mess than it was, but it’s not done. It’s not clean.

My turn toward Snowflake planning, with its progressively more detailed structure, its rigid guidelines, is reactionary. I understand that. I also understand it might not work for me, I might do as I’ve often done in the past and get frustrated by all the pre-writing work it involves. My stories are character-driven–their personalities dictate their actions, not some overarcing plot needs. Which is not always compatible with strong advance planning, when I go to write and I realize my character wouldn’t do the thing the plot needs her to do to move along the predetermined path.

This all might be for nothing, in terms of actually getting me to write this (proposed, possible) book.

But a writer that refuses to try new things is a writer who will stagnate. Having a routine isn’t a bad thing, and having a preferred method of planning (or not planning) isn’t a bad thing. But never trying anything else means being shut off to avenues of potential improvement. Maybe the Snowflake method won’t end up helping me as much as I hope, and I’ll abandon it. Or maybe I’ll finish the planning and then find myself less excited to actually write the story–a common complaint I hear from Plotters, whereas Pantsers often get the joy of character and/or story discovery as they write and things take unexpected turns.

Or maybe, just maybe, this will all go swimmingly and I’ll have a new tool in my arsenal to help me get my stories out of my head and into the hands of my readers. Maybe doing some of the work before writing the story will cut down on the amount of work I have to do after. It’s possible, or people wouldn’t be doing it.

It just remains to be seen if I will be one of them.

Keep experimenting, writers. It’s the way to grow.

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