Thursday, April 19, 2012

High Degrees of Difficulty

I have not written a single word of my work-in-progress since April 6th. That's almost two weeks. Today at lunch, I swear, I'll get a page or two written to start Chapter 11.

Why is it taking me so long to write this rough draft? Why has there been a break of a couple of weeks between every chapter? It's vexing, it is.

Part of it has to do with the formal structure of the narrative: alternating chapters telling two separate stories that intersect, sort of, about where I am now. The odd-numbered chapters are written in a close third-person point of view that sticks with one man. The even-numbered chapters are written in a more free omniscient point of view that roams around the characters though the focus stays mostly on one woman. The prose style in each of the story lines is different, too. Essentially, then, I'm really writing two novellas a the same time.

It takes me a while to switch gears from one to the other at the end of a chapter. And, because it's taking about a month for each chapter (admittedly, these are long chapters), I tend to forget the hows and whys of one story line while working on the other.

I could just write each story line out fully, first one and then the other, and then weave them together, but the narrative doesn't work like that and each chapter comments in subtle ways on the previous chapter and there are foil characters in opposing story lines and things like that. You can't really write that unless you're writing from one end of the total narrative to the other. At least I can't.

Another thing is that this formal structure, where the stories alternate and by the time you get to the end of a chapter you're immersed in one character's world and you don't necessarily want to leave that world to continue the opposing storyline, really bothers me as a reader. I don't so much like books that do what I'm doing here. Which is, of course, part of the challenge: I'm trying to conquer a formal schema I dislike.

This book has all sorts of challenges for me. There's the above-mentioned formal challenge, and there's the challenge of not using a three-act structure for either of the story arcs (I am using my soon-to-be-famous Two Act Structure, best summed up as "Actions->Consequences"), and there's the challenge of starting the book by giving the reader the sort of worst traits of the lead male character, giving up unsavory details that might best be saved for later in the narrative once the reader has become emotionally invested. I want readers to keep reading despite the actions of Our Hero, pulled forward into the book by the beauty of the prose and what I hope are intriguing ideas. We'll see. I'm working hard over here.

So anyway, I have something like a paragraph of scribbled ideas for this chapter, and I have to turn that into a 5,000-word chapter that combines the two opposing story lines without losing the established prose style, voice and point of view of the odd-numbered chapters. Which means that we'll see the female lead character through the eyes of the male lead character for the first time, and that'll be interesting, right?


  1. Yes, that will be interesting. So write it already.

  2. Well, we'll see, won't we? Hey, pick a venue for tonight.

  3. Hooray for the start! And thanks for the glimpse into tonight's agenda. I started writing prose for Everybody last night. For the first time I'm trying to create intricate prose, and it's fun! I wonder if I will end up cleaning it up again in the end.

  4. Hooray for your start on Everybody! I'll be interested to see what you do with the prose in this book.

    The stuff I wrote today at lunch seems vaguely Hemingwayesque to me. I don't know if I like a word of it, though not because of the EH influence. I'm not sure I've found the proper entry point into the scene. I keep sort of circling around direct action, coming at it from a bunch of different angles and then backing off. Which must be indicative of something obvious. Probably I'll write two more pages and then realize where I want the chapter to actually start and then write something that leads into what I've already got on the page. I've had to do that with two chapters already. Maybe three, actually.

    Chapter 10 featured an ice cream vendor with a handsome beard. There is a lot about beards in this book. I have no idea why. It just sort of happened, like the eel thing a few years ago. Beards are the new eels.

  5. I thought Cyberlamas were the new eels. Why the heck did I write about Cyberlamas??

  6. I am working on a Cyberlama joke to slip into "Go Home, Miss America." And also something about butterflies if I can.

  7. I had a line about eels in Cyberlama, but it was far too awkward, unfortunately. But! There's currently a "Bailey" reference and a monarch butterfly scene.

  8. Happy yay for starting, Scott! I love seeing a little bit more how you write - and struggle to write. It's frustrating to go slow, but can be rewarding in the end.

    Double yay for a monarch butterfly scene, Davin. :)

    What's this Everybody book? I feel left out of a conversation... :(