Sometimes I wonder what in the world convinced me that I could or even wanted to write. Yet, here I am at 4:43 in the morning drawn to my computer like a drippy nose to a Kleenex.
I originally wrote the book I’m working on now over 25 years ago during summer vacation when I taught fourth grade. The heroine is a ten-year old girl (5th grader) who is basically myself with good qualities added. She finds an abandoned puppy on her way home from school. Her dad hates dogs, and has previously forbidden her from having any pets. You see where this is going, obviously. She takes the puppy home and tries to convince her dad that the dog is worth keeping. What she is really trying to accomplish is to convince her dad, or maybe herself, that she, as well as the dog, is worth keeping. Meanwhile she has someone (or animal) she feels loves her, or more importantly maybe to whom she can outpour the love she has inside of her.
The problem with the original book basically is that although it has some great stories, it’s boring. That may be the problem with most of my writing actually, other than a few minor typos and grammatical errors. I read last night that the basic ingredient that is missing from most novelists’ first drafts is conflict.
Since the book gets its meat from my life there is plenty of conflict to draw from, but I find that I am totally a chicken. I always want the heroine, who is almost always a better rendition of myself to be seen in a good light. That’s not bad. I’ve learned that readers want their characters to be better than life, (I know I do.) so I guess that I’m good there. Where I am a chicken is I hate doing bad things to good characters. Not only that, if something awful does happen to a good character, I’m not sure how to solve the problem. Moreover they have to change, and I’m not sure how to make them do that!
In one scene of the book the heroine gets her first job – to watch her younger brother, who has an emotional or possibly mental problem, we don’t know exactly what yet, while her mom goes to the store. That sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? But Jake runs off ahead of her and a friend who dropped by the house. I hope you feel the sense of doom approaching here.
He heads down to the creek. Jenny (bossy older sister-me) tells him to stay away from the water. Of course, you know what he is going to do, and he gets in over his ankles in fast running water. I’ve rewritten this chapter at least twice. The most horrible thing I could do to this little boy is to have him be swept away by the creek. Or the heroine could end up in the drink, or her friend could die in the rescue process. Would you do something that drastic? I can’t. I was exhausted just getting him out in one piece, and of course the dog has to help because he’s worthless in the father’s eyes, and what can a dog who is terrified of water do anyway?
This chapter wasn’t even in my first book, and just so you know, it never happened in my life, which is why it probably wasn’t in my first book. Just so you know, I’m a little behind in my word count, and my plot just spun out of control, and we only have 18 days left.
As I write, I’m reading Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. I’m on Chapter Six – Plot. I have another blog, a couple actually, and I started a brief review of the book. I probably should finish it before I do my next review. I don’t know, maybe you don’t mind if I work with it step by step.
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Are you doing NaNoWriMo? If so how are you doing? I hope well.