Currently about halfway through Anna Dressed in Blood. I have theories on who the villain is most likely to be by identifying the most pressure-sensitive points in the plot thus far, working out which character’s betrayal would hurt the protagonist the most – and make the most sense in terms of dramatic irony and what clues have been scattered around thus far – and I’m torn between hoping I’m right because it feels like solid storytelling and that I am able to identify what solid storytelling ‘is’, and hoping I’m wrong because it’s just too easy.
Narrative convention is such a two-edged sword. On the one hand, as a storyteller, it’s like having a compass to steer you in the right direction whenever you get lost, something to give you the answer to your plot-related issues and get you out of a wrong turn. On the other hand, it makes you start seeing things in terms of right and wrong, and after reading The Hunger Games and thinking about Tallulah and what I’ve taken away from reading through that first draft so far, I can’t help but feel like my mind has become really narrowed by this reliance on such conventional wisdom, and while I wouldn’t say it’s made me less creative, it’s certainly led to me steering myself down certain paths in favour over others by using something of a false dichotomy to base my judgment upon. I mean I have to make some kind of decision, and if there is no wrong answer then conventional wisdom can’t be wrong either, but still. I loathe all things generic and formulaic in my own work, while also loving them when I see other people use them cleverly. I don’t want to hate it in my own work, but I also don’t want to get to a point where I’ve limited myself to relying on it solely and never branching out. A tricky one, to be sure.
I’ve also found this very strange phenomenon with books, where there will be a book that is, say, 300 pages long, and you get up to page 140 and it seems like you’re over halfway through, or you’ll get up to page 100 and it’ll seem like you’re only a quarter of the way through, just by comparing the sizes of the collection of pages you’ve read through to the collection of pages still left to go. It’s very strange. Almost like books have some kind of trans-dimensional properties. Perhaps all the books I’ve read have actually come from Unseen University. Perhaps I should have some bananas to hand, just in case …
I really want to be working on Tallulah, but I don’t feel like I can let myself until I have some real distance built up and my tunnel-vision wears off. I do think I’ll go back and read through it again now. I’ll probably change my mind tomorrow, knowing how I work, but once really doesn’t seem like enough. I don’t want to spend forever fretting over what mistakes I’m not noticing myself making, though, so if I do read it again, it’ll be the last time that I do until draft 2 requires my editorial attention. Again, so long as I’m happy with what I’ve got, it doesn’t matter what it isn’t. The only problem is that I’m starting to feel like perhaps I shouldn’t be happy with what I’ve got.
A silly, neurotic way to think, and sadly all-too-common in our success-driven cultural psyche. I am rather embarrassed to not have escaped that particular oppressive yoke, but oh well. I guess self-awareness is one step in the right direction at least.
Maybe it’s just nerves. Maybe it’s a sign that I should actually not be taking this break and 0ught to get back to work right away before these doubts consume the last shreds of integrity and confidence I have in my own judgment and I end up caught in a never-ending spiral of doubt and revision, taking every step except the next one.
Maybe I just think too much.
Hmm, no. No ‘maybe’ about that …
I think I’m just not used to having a break from Tallulah, after over a year of working on it. And I am happy, at least, with the direction I’m heading in with the preliminary activities leading up to draft 2. It’s a good direction. It would make for a good structure. I’m sure others would as well, and maybe I just need to take some time and write out all of the potential directions this story could go in, just to clear my head.
A lot of maybes. Well, one definitely is that I’m going to finish reading this book, because it’s really rather good.
So long as you finish, that’s what matters, right?