One down, something to go

I’m up-to-speed with readings for one of my papers, and I’ve got two more days before I have to be up-to-speed with the others, so I’m in fairly good shape. I mean compared to my history of academic commitment it’s like I’m a different person.

And I am, really. Writing Tallulah has changed me in a lot of little ways, which can be summed up as ‘for the better’ quite accurately. I’m more optimistic, more self-motivated, and more committed. And more interested. I think that’s a big one.

Now I’ve finished one of my two plans for Draft 2, the one with the huge change.

It worked out much better than I thought it would.

It could be better. I think the huge change that I made – or, more specifically, the part of the story that was reason I made it to begin with – is going to be awkward almost no matter what way I spin it. The one way I can think of spinning it that is not also awkward necessitates a huge character change, and I will happily admit that I care far more about my characters than my plot. Of course part of that preference comes with the belief that my beloved characters deserve a good plot to work with, so there is no getting away from the issue of trying to make this thing work better than it perhaps currently does.

And there’s still the option of splitting this into a series, and spreading out my narrative ‘nodes’, thus affording each of them a cleaner focus. Not to mention that the word-count would probably drop substantially and make prospective publishers happy. Or just more likely to look at my manuscript.

I am very worried about over-planning. At the same time, I have a whole bunch of university stuff that I’m going to have to take care of rather soon, and thus an intensive drafting programme may not even be feasible – but even so, I don’t want to be planning just to kill time. Even if I can only do drafting on the weekends, or for one hour every day while I’m working on assignments or whatever, I want it to be drafting, not planning the draft. I only want to plan as much as I absolutely have to – plan and clarify.

That’s really the issue now: clarification. What’s happening, and why, and whether it works. But if I spend too long on the hypothetical I’ll never actually see how it works in practice. I had to sort things out on the fly the first time around, after all, and it worked okay.

But only because I came back and made notes. Because I had a mind to revise. If I’m going to revise, then I want to do it properly.

Like I say, this plan worked quite well – there were a few issues, like losing some of the clarity of emphasis and the roles that characters played that I had in mind when I started writing it, just as a result of getting a bit sidetracked by just how huge the change was that I’d made – but actually in the end it didn’t change very much; it was just a big change, but it had relatively few effects on the overall story, which was very interesting – and quite heartening.

However, it did change the placement of a key piece of tension in the story, and its nature. Not necessarily for the worse, but it certainly changed it. What’s dawning on me now is actually just how telling that is; the rest of the story can actually function pretty much as it always has even allowing for this change – it makes fairly little difference. And in some ways it’s actually better for the tension with this change in play. I just looked at the change when I made it and thought: ‘Well, since I’ve made it, I may as well also change all of this other stuff to capitalise on it’, and now looking back at it those attempts to ‘capitalise’ on the change were actually totally unnecessary with regards to telling a solid story. Or as solid as I know how to tell one anyway.

That is another issue, and the main thing that is telling me that I need to actually start getting back to writing, to be mindful of falling into the trap of over-planning.

Another issue – probably the biggest one for me – is how each character ended up by the time the story finished, where they were at, what their just desserts were – and how they involved the other characters. I get annoyed when characters are rewarded for their heroism with other characters, especially when I think the character serving as the reward is too good for the one being rewarded with them (part of my issue with Anna Dressed in Blood, speaking of which I still have to find a time to read the sequel), and that doesn’t just mean romantically or sexually. It’s the same with the story making excuses for characters or giving them easy outs from difficult and serious dilemmas – that was my only major complaint with Silver Linings Playbook, which up until the third act was an absolutely fantastic film, and then because of the third act, specifically how it was set up, merely became a very good film let down by that final third. This plan ended up having a lot of these instances strewn throughout it where they didn’t use to be there at all, and they also turned out to not have to have been there. So at the moment this plan does look a bit scruffy, but it could easily be tidied-up.

And then I’ll write the other plan where the Huge Change does not occur, and just see how it feels.

On that note, I also need to get this planned out as soon as possible, because I’ve got assignments coming up, and I need to be able to, like, do them all without losing my mind. Specifically, I need to work out a drafting schedule that works around my scholarly commitments, giving myself enough time to actually work on assignments while keeping up some kind of momentum with the draft.

With regards to this plan, I have currently clocked in 23 chapters, so I’ve lost 5 somewhere along the line – which is good, in terms of compartmentalising my workload. It doesn’t necessarily mean that this story is going to be any shorter than it currently is, and in fact may well end up being longer, I have no clue. But so far it does actually feel to be about the same length. A lot of those ‘lost’ chapters are due to me combining chapters more than actually cutting chapters in terms of their content – I’ve tried to get rid of superfluous stuff, and one upside to this plan is that it does actually feel like it tells a story. I’ll see how many chapters I end up with via the other plan – I imagine probably the same, or slightly fewer – and then factor that in with when I have to make time for assignments and stuff.

I’ve got the show on as well, so that’s going to be interesting; to be fair I have a ton of free time even during rehearsals, so it should actually be totally fine. But still something to factor in.

It’s getting there, and it’s getting there fast. It doesn’t feel like it, but that could just be because I haven’t set myself a solid date to get started, which I do need to do. So I need to get this plan written.

And then, I need to write.

Which does actually make me incredibly anxious to think about.

Which is why I need a good plan.

I’m working on it.

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