This week's topic:
When Your Story Blows Up
I was really struggling with what to post about this week for Behind the Story because, quite frankly, my work on my own story has been faltering this week. So I'll give you a recount of what issues I've come up against, and how I'm trying to go about solving them.
How a story goes kablooie (and how I'm striving to fix it):
- Comparing my own writing to published books: Kind of inevitable if you read a lot and dream of being published, but not productive at the stage I'm in with my current project. Why? Because it's like comparing a newborn to a college grad. My book baby is cute and exciting and full of possibilities, but right now all it's doing is pooping, drooling, and crying. We haven't moved beyond the basics of life yet. I'm just getting a grasp on the characters, setting, and plot. A published book is like a college grad. You've proved yourself. You've mastered the basics plus things like theme and voice. You went on to get accepted with your fancy query letter (college admission essay). And you've been groomed by editors (college professors). So I've been really cruel to myself and my project this week and have been comparing it to other great books and thinking about how under-developed it is. I keep trying to reason with myself and telling myself if I keep working, it will get there. But what I really need is a brilliant idea to dig me out of this hole I'm in for the week.
- Where to set my book: My game plan was to set my book in a setting of my own creation. I even made a map of my city with different districts. And drew geographical features surrounding the city. And the city has a cool name. But now I'm second guessing my decision because I had a plot idea to use real historical references in association with my villain and what her secret society had done in the past. I really liked this idea, but I can't see how my made-up city will mesh well with real historical references. And so that's where I've gotten stuck. Someone suggested I read some "alternate history" books. I think perhaps I need to finish Westerfeld's Leviathan series. He's a genius at world-building and this series is an alternate history, so maybe it will help me figure out the logistics of what I'm trying to do.
- Finding a purpose besides just "looking cool": So for the sake of protecting my ideas, I'm going to use some substitutions here. So, my main character is going to be creating something and the villain is after her creations. Let's say she's making "GIANT OWLS." I kind of got the idea because I thought GIANT OWLS would be really cool in a story. (If you haven't caught on yet... my character is not really making giant owls. I'd just like to keep a secret what she's making.) So, this week I got to thinking why the heck would my villain want her GIANT OWLS besides the fact they they are insanely cool and look awesome. What does my villain want to do with these GIANT OWLS? What could be sinister or powerful about them? So far all I got is one kind of lame idea that conflicts with my setting again. Darn you setting! I chatted with my brother tonight and that kind of helped. He had some better ideas, but I have to mull them over because they conflict with some plot details.
So my verdict from this week:
My story blew up. It's in pieces this week and I'm at a loss for how to put it back together and make some sort of sense. But that's why it's so important as a writer to not get too attached to what you're writing. I realized that I am probably going to have to change how I originally saw my story going (whether it's the setting or what my villain is after). I still have pieces to work with, and hopefully whatever I come up with will be one step closer to an end product I can be proud of.
How do you overcome writer's block? What do you do when your story blows up?