Is This My Process?

Posted: March 8, 2015 by writingsprint in Writing
Tags: , ,

At the end of “We’ve Got Your Back” you’re going to see a summary of what happened to all the Mass Effect characters after the Reaper War in my personal “head canon.” When I first wrote it, I stared at the pages in disbelief when I was finished. I had just written a quick summary of the rest of the lives of over ten different characters. Why couldn’t I do that with my own stories?

Maybe I can. Lately I’ve been wrestling with writer’s block–more like “stubborn author syndrome”–over The Lost Princess. I didn’t like where the story was going, so I’ve been stewing in frustration and attacking the problem from different angles to break loose. I stay away from writing outlines because I can analyze anything to death and not get anywhere. But unlike outlining, writing the summaries felt creative–it had characters, it had mini-plots, and short moments of triumph and meaning. It felt like storytelling, expedited.

I’ve done it before, after the fact. When I submitted Shadow and Shade to publishers, some wanted a summary of the story attached to the query letter. The first draft came out to two pages, which I skinnied down to one. (I think. I can’t find the bloody thing. Kids, don’t be like me. Organize your files better.)

I decided to write as many summaries as it took to come up with a story that I wanted to write. I’ve started two so far. They mostly have one sentence per scene, more when I had to work through a knotty plot issue or if I got jazzed by an idea. The first summary got my attention. I made it several chapters into the story, and while it had potential, it wasn’t heading in the direction where I wanted it to go.

Some of you are thinking, “It’s not about what you want the story to be about. It’s about what the story wants to be about.” True. But if we take a few steps back and change some things, like the main character’s motivations, we can write a completely different story. In the second version, the main character doesn’t find herself in trouble, she gets herself into trouble. This version has electrified me. I want to take it to the end to prove that I can do it.

I’ve heard other writers talk about their process. Some say “start with a character.” One of my favorites writes the entire first chapter without stopping, and if it grabs her, she continues. I don’t have a process. I have characters I love and a collection of ideas that I want to turn into something great. Pulling them all together is like building a puzzle where you don’t know have a picture of how it should look at the end. For the first time I can see how the characters’ layers interweave with each other. I had two “oh my God” moments in one day. Is this my process?

Eyes open: a summary is one thing. A story is much, much more. True enough. But a summary still beats the hell out of stubborn author syndrome.

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Comments
  1. winterbayne says:

    When it comes down to it, we use whatever it takes to get the story going. It is good to have as much in the tool box as we can get.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] up on my post “Is This My Process?“, I wrapped up the summary I was doing of The Lost Princess. For sure, it’s rough. It […]

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