Thursday, August 06, 2015

Plot Hole Whack-a-Mole: Kitteh edition

This is me, trying to find and fix all the plot holes. 

I'm about 70k into my novel now. It's not all new material; I should mention that straight out the gate. I salvaged three characters, and the initial concept, from the old manuscript, which was a little over 50k, as completed. This new version is a total reimaging/revisioning (not to be confused with revised, because whoa mama, this thing is a hot mess right now) of the original novel I completed in 2011.

I sent the original around to a few publishers, when many were loudly crying no more vampire novels! That's probably when I will stop reading forever, but I digress. I did it anyway and was told my story was "promising"...still, I had no takers. I thought about self-publishing it, so I purchased a premade cover for it. Since then, I've hedged on releasing it, because of the wealth of feedback I received while it was out on submission. You know, the "promising, but with caveat" and all that.

I set the whole novel aside to give it breathing room while I figured out what I wanted to do with it. Then, last year, my old PC died and I lost the original digital file of the book. I still had, and do have, a printed copy of the original story, but after reading through it twice, I decided to rewrite the book from scratch. I've been doing that for the past two months, give or take a few weeks.

Last Friday, when I pulled the hard drive from my Acer and recovered all my old files, I was able to rescue the original file for The Novel. However, when I poked through it, I realized there wasn't much material that fit the reimagined version. So, that's a full novel on Drive that I won't be using ever.

The new version looks almost nothing like what I initially wrote. I saved three characters from the old book, then rewrote the full story from the beginning. The theme, tone, premise, everything...it's all totally different. The beginning and ending has changed dramatically. The heroine was the protagnist in the original novel. In this version, it's all on the hero. Overall, the story is much better for the changes I've made ("promising" editor was right, dammit), but I'm not even gonna lie...this story has been an absolute bitch to write.

As advised, I've pantsed this thing from the new beginning, letting the characters and their personalities drive the plot. I'm a plotter by nature, so I guess no one should be surprised that this book winged off into a direction I didn't anticipate at all. The two main characters I saved have evolved from who I thought they were initially into discover-as-I-go strangers; that's probably the most surprising thing of all. Does anyone else get how crazy that sounds? Hello, my name is Cora. My characters, they aren't who I thought they were.

Just when you think you know someone, am I right?

The third character, a mentor/sounding board character, has become a Bechdel litmus paper. That's another surprise, because it's never my intention to self-censor or inject politically correct anything into my books. I do, however, want my female charaters to talk about more than just men. This is a grittier novel than what I'm used to writing, and I want it to stay that way. While there is a strong romantic subplot running throughout the novel (the novel couldn't exist without it), I'm purposely trying to steer the story away from certain conventional romantic scenes and elements.

Constructively speaking, what great lesson have I taken away from all this? (Again, what I take away from this. Your mileage may vary.)

A.)Plotting from character equals greater character depth, but less "intrusive authorial control" over the plot. That can be a little scary when you're writing a mystery, or suspense thriller, or you've been given a rigid framework, or specific story guidelines to work with. The characters may not obey those guidelines. Then what?  Commense hair pulling.

B.)Plotting from...well, plot (which I define as: the series of events that happen in your story) gives you greater control over the story itself, but the characters are sketched in more lightly. Motivations have to be cut and polished to fit the framework. Characters need more tailored reactions to fit the scenes necessary to take your story from point A to point Z. While the characters are guaranteed to obey the plot dynamics, they can come across as two dimensional, and they can also make the story seem less organic.

Pros and cons exist for both methods, so it doesn't matter which one I decide to use. The end result is all that really matters: a completed book. I will say, though, pantsing my way through a story while also plotting from character has created a minefield of plot holes. Holy Schnikes the plot holes. Reference the kitteh video above. Yes. It's really like that.

I've already written all the way to The End, but I need another 15k to reach my minimum safe word count. So, for now, I'm taking what's there and beating the sheet out of it. Not really. I'm just using a STC beat sheet to find all the inevitable plot holes. Which, coincidentally (or not), makes me want to drink ALL the King Cake Vodka and Diet Coke. In moderation.

I tell myself every day the story is getting there, wherever there happens to be. Just a little further now. A little more. 5k more words. Then another 10k. The finish line is just across those train tracks. And across that lake. And across those mountains. I'm exhausted from the journey, but I'm pushing forward. The process has been very messy, but like Joel Saltzman said, "Strive for progress, not perfection." Trust me, I'm on it.

Cheers. ♥   

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