I finished the novel. In its own quiet way, it was pretty exciting. I wrote a few words over the 50,000 mark and had to stop and say out loud “I just wrote a novel”. Then I did a little chair happy dance. Then I submitted my word count to be validated and I got a nice badge to put on the blog home page (see it over there, lower left corner?). I got a t-shirt too, so I’m sure I’ll be stopped on the street – or at least at the gym – and asked about my accomplishment. Right.
Kidding aside, the biggest thing I learned from the whole experience was that there is no more saying I can’t do something. There are things I won’t do, or choose not to do, but there is no can’t do. I highly recommend that everyone tackle this particular challenge because, although it’s a prison of sorts for 30 days, it’s ultimately liberating. Oh, but you say you can’t write? That’s a can’t, and they’re no longer allowed.
Now, the book. It has strong parts and weak parts; some of the writing is painfully awkward and some of it is not bad. The middle section seems to meander a bit, and a few paragraphs had me yawning. I wrote it so fast that I don’t have a great handle on all the details, so there are some inconsistencies that will need to be ironed out. I like the characters and what happens to them, though, and it is essentially a believable story.
The larger issue is that the novel is lacking some grit and ugliness. It’s too nice. Everything turns out great in the end, through the hard work and perseverance of my intrepid characters. Snore. I need to add more conflict or a better villain to even the score and keep it from being a saccharine read. I need the heavy hand of fate to tamp down the lightness that comes from strokes of luck and fairy godmothers in disguise.
The thing is, that’s a real challenge for me. In playing god with the world I created, I wanted things to work out well for people. That’s what I always want. In fact, my novel has some things to say about how people make choices in their lives despite what fate has thrown at them – tiny and huge choices – and create the lives they have. Many could argue that this is not real life, but, of course, that’s their perspective. Which is my point.
So, the rewrite begins. I will probably struggle more with adding struggle than I did in knocking out those initial words. Not sure where the story will end up, but I’m open to the possibilities. A little exploration into the dark side of human motivations is probably a good practice. It will add depth and texture and may even make the shiny parts glow brighter.
Leah and Carolyn
Writing Exercise: Do you get to the good – of character, of stories – by way of the ugly stuff first? Or is it the other way around? Can you add beauty without smirking and horror without flinching?