Back on track

I made a personal blog a couple of days ago, both to make up for signing off Tumblr and hopefully not returning until I have recovered my critical thinking faculties, and because this blog is not supposed to be about my personal life. It’s supposed to be about me writing. Now that the pressure’s off: let the Writing About Writing resume!

The last concerted effort I made to continue work on Tallulah was to try writing a “draft made of chapter summaries”. I did four such summaries and ran into a brick wall, and I’m putting that down to just not really wanting to write any more summaries. It wasn’t because I’d already written a whole draft and then revised that draft and turning to summaries just feels insignificant; that didn’t occur to me. It was just that I had the ideas in mind that I was comfortable with already, and putting them down in writing didn’t do much to spark any new ideas or light up the old ones, nothing that pushed me forward. I won’t say it didn’t work; I’ll say I found out how it works to write a draft made of chapter summaries, and the result – for this book anyway – is that it tells me where I’m stuck.

I’m stuck because I already know what I want to happen, and have just not been letting myself write that version of events.

A big part of it is that I’ve already written a lot of that story. The revision that I wrote off completely either late last year or early this year – I’m thinking it’s actually more useful than I gave it credit for; even though it swung in the exact opposite direction that I wanted to go in when I first envisioned this story, there’s a lot there that I like. The ideas at least, not so much their execution.

For instance: one of the main issues with the story was that it was divided between two plots, each belonging to a different secondary character, and each plot/character neatly split the story in half, leaving one of them feeling like their potential was wasted and making the other seem like a distraction because they came in right when things with the other character were heating up.

It’s easy enough to say that this second character needed to be introduced earlier; it would solve a lot of problems, but it might also solve a lot of problems to get rid of them altogether. Same for the other character. At least that has been the dichotomy I’ve been working with for the past two years. But now I’m starting to feel more optimistic about the idea of simply de-emphasising both of their roles, because in the end this story is called Tallulah, not A Bunch Of Characters. Although I am totally reserving the right to use that name for a story at a later date.

The urge that I had to make the story less down and more humourous is still there, but when I first had it it meant changing a whole lot of events. I tried putting it into practice by writing a new Chapter 1 and after 7 iterations it still wasn’t working, so I think the answer is not that I need to change individual events as much as I want to change the overall tone of the story. Just adding in or re-wording little things, little asides in the dialogue and narration; to build on what’s already there rather than uprooting vast tracts of narrative land to replace them with something completely new and untested.

I have a lot more faith in that revision now than I did three months ago; I have faith that it can actually help get me back on track, despite it being the result of my going off track. I got tunnel-vision and made it work in the way I could see it working; now I can see it working differently. And this is good, because it means there’s a whole heap of writing that I don’t have to do. I don’t have to start over from scratch after all. I can just change things in a different way.

So this is pretty great. And since I read that manuscript 3 or 4 times last year I can still remember it pretty well; I may not even have to read it again. I’m sure I will anyway, just to be thorough, but if I need that time for study – which I probably do – then I can probably work from memory and draft up another chapter summary plan, shifting events around and changing emphasis and things.

There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, huge empty spaces to be filled in and filler to be excavated. It’s not going to be easy getting stuck back in and overhauling the things that need to be overhauled; some of it does need to be changed and uprooted, and I don’t know what goes in its place yet. So this isn’t going to be an easy task by any means. But it does feel doable now. It feels like it’s moved out of the purely hypothetical realm and into the realm of potential. I can do this. Maybe not fast, but I can do it.

Guess I’m writing my book again.