Where have I heard this one before: “the solution to writing Tallulah is to make it a really small, simple story, really almost more of a short story than a novel”?
I mean if I were more motivated I would go through all 450+ posts I’ve published over the course of this blog’s lifetime, find every instance of me saying that or some close variation thereof, and post links to them here, because holy shit do I repeat myself on this primary social media platform of mine.
But you know what? Repetition is how we learn. I’ve complained about not learning lessons the first time around and how infuriating that is; the fact that I keep “re-learning” those lessons is less a failure to learn and more a trend of getting better at learning X thing. You can’t learn something without doing it a lot.
So, since I commit to the plan of simplifying Tallulah into a simpler, smaller story A LOT …
This is the plan. This is the only plan. Write it, exactly as it is in my head regardless of whether that is “good” or not, as the simple, small, kind of incidental story that it is, and that is the story. Embellishments are just that: embellishments, and at the minute the working version of Tallulah is a series of embellishments that drag out and distract from the heart of the story. In other words, all that filler I thought I took out during the revision was … I mean it was a good lesson in cutting filler from a first draft, but the lesson was that it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The whole thing is filler, except for the first chapter and the last … five? Like … yeah. The story I’m trying to tell is all in those chapters, and even then, because they were written to fit in with the rest of the story I’d written around them, it doesn’t work on its own.
Buuut it might be a decent place to start. Just strike those flints together and see what colour the sparks are.
That’s the analogy I’m looking for. Exactly. Shush.
Although maybe it’s just busywork, like my “character map” idea turned out to be. Like a lot of my “plans” end up being. But, I mean, it’s writing that I’ve done and will, in all likelihood, end up reusing in some capacity anyway, so …
My plan is basically to take what I’ve got in these chapters and see how much is compatible with the pared-down re-visioning of Tallulah that I’ve got in mind now, the “small and simple” version of the story that is really more of a scene than a story. And that’s fine. That’s what this story is; that’s what it’s going to be. The other characters and interesting filler I put in it can exist elsewhere; I do like them, they do work, but they’re getting in the way in this particular story.
This seems doable. This seems in the vein of my new philosophy, which I’ve definitely learnt and then forgotten and am now in need of re-learning, of writing a) exactly the stuff that’s in my head, exactly as it is in my head, b) allowing those ideas to be iterative, predictable, redundant and all manner of “bad” without censoring myself, c) not embellishing those ideas so that I can fucking write them down without distracting and derailing myself – in short, it’s about honesty, with an emphasis for making up for my rampant, toxic perfectionism. And in all honesty, Tallulah might not have a market in what I consider to be its “true form”. It might just be a short piece that I write for myself. And that’s fine. If that’s what it is, then that’s what it is, and to try and turn it into something else would be … well, not what I want to do. I never quite realised just how much of my attitude towards writing Tallulah has been based on the assumption that I was writing for the “young adult market”, but it’s completely true. And, obviously, it hasn’t worked like I wanted. It’s been a distraction based on an ill-defined end goal: I have no fucking idea what the “young adult market” actually is, let alone how to write to spec for it. I have been operating on the logic of thinking up obstacles to overcome without considering whether they’re actually relevant to what I’m attempting in any way. And also just getting really down about writing in general. Now there’s some turnaround. Now I think I’m onto something. And I’ve thought it before and it’s come to nothing, but goddammit, this can work. This can be a thing that works. I can make it work.
Just gotta … do that.