Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Look for a New Angle

Probably around five years ago, I started a fantasy novel. What it started out as compared to what it’s become is very, very different. I changed my heroine, the plot’s focus shifted, characters developed and often demanded more attention than I originally allotted to them (not pointing fingers, but the majority of this unrest comes from my darling dastardly elf villain). So a few more rewrites and adjustments were made. Things were looking good.

And then last September, I finally finished the first draft of the novel. Finally. I was up at an unholy hour of the morning, but I finished it, and I felt extremely satisfied. I let it sit and stew before attacking it with editing, and things were looking good. Editing went well, I was ready to thrust my little novel into the hands of alpha readers and let them comb through it.

But then one suggestion was made. And then another. And things began to unravel fast. I was scrambling to fix it while getting more ready for the alpha readers, but nothing was working. Nothing was turning out right. I was stuck, and it didn’t get any better when my elf villain began to want an even bigger, more focused role of villainy (he’s a brat, that one). I was stuck.

Pretty much what happened.

So I thought the best to try was a total rewrite.  The thought of rewriting the whole thing sucked, but if it helped, so be it. What could it hurt?

A lot, actually. The rewrite didn’t feel natural, it didn’t have the same feel as the old version. I was told it was because it was new. I understood that, so I kept plowing on.

But it still wasn’t feeling right. It was coming as well as it had before. I was frustrated with it (sometimes to tears), with having to start over, with being stuck with the plot, with the characters. There were moments when the words came easier than the others, but usually it all felt awkward. I was discouraged, having seemingly gone back to square one, and still flailing.

Then a friend (who has so patiently listened to my rants and rambling) suggested I step back from it, that I stop working on it and read up on the craft of writing, and research for my novel. I balked at first at this. I knew I hadn’t done any reading on the subject of writing, but I didn’t want to drop the novel. I wanted to fix it fast.

But then I decided to give it a try. I figured I needed to step back and let it stew for a while. I’d read up on writing well, and research different elements for my novel. If nothing else, I needed to at least take a break from it to calm down.

So far, it’s been a good experience. I’ve requested books from the library for this purpose, and I’m coming up with ideas on how to fix up my novel. By stepping back, figuring out what I need to research, and planning for it, I’m becoming more open to changes that need to be made. I realized it was similar to Hiro in Big Hero 6, as he brainstormed. Tadashi told him to look at things from a new angle as he swung Hiro upside down.

I needed to step back for my new angle. I was looking at the novel up close and trying to fix it while writing it, and it just wasn’t working and adding to the stress. Now that I’ve stepped away from the writing part and focusing on the brainstorming, I feel more open to new approaches, new angles from which to write. Because I’m not trying to write while I brainstorm, I’m able to look at it from a wider angle. I can take it all in without also trying to focus on one section. It’s a lot less stressful, and I feel more confident in getting it done. I have a lot of reading to do, but I’m kind of looking forward to the learning in the next couple months. I already have some ideas brewing, and I’m excited for more!

So that’s what is happening to my novel. ;) I hope this helps any fellow writers who might be struggling too. If things aren’t working, try taking a step back from the writing. Find a new angle. Don’t give up yet. I’m learning that editing/revision can feel like you’ve been trampled by speeding elephants, but I’m also learning not to give up when it gets hard.

Look for a new angle, if you’re stuck and nothing else seems to work. Step back from the writing and look at it from all sides. Have your characters approach the scene from a different route. Have your hero/heroine jump off the horse instead of turning the horse around, or have the side characters spread out a little through the plot before the readers meet them all. You never know what will come up! :D

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