Fourth time’s the charm?

I’m pleased to say that I’ve finished the first draft of Degeneration. I actually finished it yesterday. I meant to write about this yesterday, but I spent the rest of the day watching Twin Peaks with my parents, so I was a bit distracted. Back to Degeneration, though. It currently sits at 47,879 words. According to most of the sites I’ve found online, this is within the normal range for a young novel, so I’m going to try not to be too disappointed in how short it is, especially since I know it’ll get longer when I edit it.

Despite what I said in the last post, I’ve decided not to go back and edit anything right now. I think I need to distance myself from this novel for a little while. It probably won’t last for too long, but I at least want a few days when I think of something else first. Maybe I’ll work on one of the short stories I’ve been meaning to write. Or maybe I’ll work on outlining another novel. Keep Going has been on my mind a lot lately, and I will probably be ready to work on the outline soon.

I’m not entirely happy with the way Degeneration turned out. There are some parts of it that I really like, but I think I’m still afraid of making my characters suffer too much. I’ve let Adelyn convince me that she really doesn’t care that her family hates her, but that’s not true. She says that she doesn’t care, but when she’s around them, she still wants them to like her, and that’s not really all that evident in the novel. Without that honesty, the book is just…boring. I don’t want to make Adelyn suffer, but without that suffering, the book lacks any real feeling.

This is the first draft of this novel, though it’s the third draft of the story. After two screenplays, you’d think I’d have a better understanding of what I’m writing about, but I’m still having problems. The first draft lacked drama. The second draft lacked flow. The third draft lacked emotion. The good news is that at least now I have a better understanding of what it’s supposed to be.

Sadly, I always have a clear understanding of what I want the story to be when I’m planning. Then I go to write it, and it just doesn’t work out how I want it to. I think this is where my lack of planning comes in. I’ve always had outlines, but they’ve more been a list of events that should occur in each chapter. I don’t include transitions or notes on my characters’ emotional states or anything. I think that’s part of my problem. My outlines aren’t detailed enough. I used to get really detailed in my outlines, and then I’d never write the story, and somehow I took that as a sign that outlines don’t work for me, when really I think I was just a stupid kid who hadn’t found a proper story to work on yet.

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Posted on June 25, 2012, in CampNaNo, Degeneration, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Making our characters suffer is how we prod them into growing. Go ahead, make them suffer. There’s no such thing as too much, so long as it has a point. Don’t do it needlessly, because it has to make sense within the story, rather than being forced, there only for the purpose of suffering. Adelyn sounds like a perfect candidate. From what you said, she’s conflicted, ambivalent. She wants to not care, but she can’t help wanting to be wanted. That can be a good cause of suffering, having to deal with being torn like that, and, if they really don’t like her (rather than rampant misinterpretation based on expectation), how to deal with that.

    Also, congrats on finishing, and I agree, give yourself at least a couple of weeks. I like your idea of working on a different project for a while in the meantime. I find nothing helps me gain perspective and eliminates my tendency to assume what I meant is in the text like another project. It makes me stop thinking about the one in the drawer for a while.

    • Thanks! I think I’ve spent so much time disliking Adelyn’s family that I’ve never stopped to think about the fun she might have had there in the past. I do this a lot with my writing, sadly: I know how the character feels at the end of the novel but don’t really do a good job of showing how they got to that point. Fortunately, I get closer to where I want to be with each draft, so I’m still making progress, even if it’s not as much as I’d like. And now I’m having fun labeling a new notebook to work on my next project. 🙂

      • Progress is the important part. And I know the feeling, though for me it’s mostly opening a new outliner document. Still, same thrill, with all the wonderful possibilities and things to explore.

        I think it’s good to understand the character’s past, as it often informs how they react to things and conduct themselves in the present. We see everything and interpret it through the lens of our own personal history, after all. Our characters should be no different, if we want them to really be alive.

  2. Congrats on finishing! You’re leagues ahead of me, so I can’t give you any smart advice, but I’m sure you’ll work out the emotional side. I think you need to be clear about how she feels and why she feels a certain way in a given situation, and then it’ll become clearer in your writing as well. 🙂

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