Finally making progress
Okay, it’s only taken me a week and a half, but I’ve finally finished the outline for draft 2 of For Real This Time. This seems to be a recurring theme with me: I write a novel, think that this is going to be the time that the first draft is really good, print out the novel, make a bunch of comments and edits, and then go back and decide to just start over anyway. Although, I am happy to say that there are some scenes that I will be keeping. That’s a big step for me. Usually I just toss the whole thing and then rewrite the scenes that I mostly like. Granted, I haven’t started writing yet, so it’s still possible that that could happen, but I’m going to try to be optimistic right now. Plus, there really were quite a few scenes from the first draft that I liked.
The first draft was 17 chapters long, and we didn’t even see the love interest until chapter 9. Draft 2 will be 21 chapters, and we mention the love interest briefly in chapter one and meet him in chapter 6. That’s still a bit later than I would have liked, but the story is more set up for the introduction now. I’ve also spaced out some of the events. The first draft was horrible in terms of pacing. I liked the beginning, where we got to know Maggie and what she wanted most out of life, but after that, the novel sort of lost it. The middle section took up a lot of time and attention, but not a lot really happened. One minute she’s meeting Parker for the first time, and the next minute the summer’s over and the story is wrapping up. It was horrible, and there were a lot of loose ends and events that didn’t really make sense, or events that were alluded to but never actually happened, even though they should have. This version will be a lot better, as I believe I’ve fixed most of those problems.
One of the problems with my writing is that it’s usually very one-dimensional. I always love my main characters and want to see them grow and learn, but I don’t always write the most interesting ways for them to get what they want. I think that’s why I usually gravitate toward literary fiction – there’s still a plot with those novels, of course, but it’s less of a factor. In literary fiction, you’re allowed to have a character sit in a chair for hours, reflecting on life, and have that be the only thing that happens in that chapter. The same can’t be said for books in any other genre. You actually have to balance a bunch of different storylines, and that’s not something I have a lot of practice in, I’m afraid.
When I was in middle school and early high school, I wrote a lot of Harry Potter fan fiction. I actually wrote several of them that had plots that were at least semi-interesting. And then I started to write romantic fan fiction, and my stories lost something. I would focus on the romantic aspect and ignore everything else. I would have Harry’s friends turn against him because it was easier to write the story without having to worry about including them. I think that’s the main reason that the last book I read, The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden, reminds me so much of fan fiction – because it’s really only about the romance. There are side characters who show up and talk to the main characters, sure, and Callie and Kayden both have issues in their past/present to overcome, but the majority of the novel is focused on their relationship, and that’s exactly like my fan fiction used to be.
I think that’s why it took me so long to do this outline: there were so many different threads to keep track of. There was the main storyline of Maggie’s quest to lose weight. There was her friendship with Parker, which she hopes will become something more. There are her best friends. There’s drama with her parents and her extended family. There are the people at school and in her neighborhood who were mean to her. Some of those are more important than others, of course, but they all had to be included, and that was more work than I’m used to. It’s good work, of course. I’m happy to do it, and now that I’ve finally figure out what I’m doing, it’s fun. I know that this is what it takes to be a successful writer who’s happy with her work. It just took a bit longer than I was expecting.
I have 10 novels that I want to work on this year – the five that I want to edit, the four that I want to finish, and a new one that came to me the other day that I can’t get out of my head. I’m hoping to work on one each month, with the extra two months as sort of a cushion in case I don’t make it. Since this month’s novel is obviously For Real This Time, I should really get around to rewriting it now that I’m done with the outline. One chapter a day for the rest of the month, and I should be able to finish this, especially since I am keeping some of what I already have written.