Today I took a look at my “writing” folder. In that folder, is another set of folders, each labelled as a different book title (or if I didn’t get that far, maybe “genie book” or “empire one”). Each one of those folders has a number of different scenes or drafts of unfinished novels. To call it clutter would be an understatement.
I have eleven folders dedicated to individual story plots, and have completed one novel. What does that tell you?
Here’s the thing, though: I’ve lost inspiration for most of them. It makes me sad, to say the least. I have characters stuck in a waiting room that they’ll never be called out of. Each is so beautiful and dear to me in his/her own way, but I just can’t find it in me to make their stories go anywhere. Nothing comes to me past a scene or two.
So, what am I going to do? First things first, if it’s the character that came to me crystal clear, I might try to put them in another story. They’re not dependent on the original plot, so why not? But, what if it’s just a scene? One single scene that I can see clear as day, but nothing more. It’s quite simple, really.
Write a short story. They’re actually quite underrated. I originally grew into the habit of short stories while waiting to hear back from agents last year – to pass the time without yet being ready to delve into another novel. In short (haha), it was a past time. However, they quickly became worth more to me.
My abilities when it comes to descriptions have greatly strengthened thanks to them. I’ve also learned the beauty in simplicity – don’t put words on the page for the sake of count. I don’t mean during the original draft where you’re jotting down your ideas. I mean in the editing stages. It becomes tempting to try to make your story sound eloquent by using too-large words and over-description. The story becomes lost in it.
A lot of magazines that I submit to have a word count just under my story’s draft once I’m done with it. That means I have to re-look at it, and decide what the story absolutely can’t live without. Honestly, that should always be our point of view. If it’s not relative to the story, and doesn’t propel the plot forward, why waste your readers’ time with it? If I’m attached to a scene, the question becomes “how can I make this scene more relevant to the plot?” and then bam, my plot becomes just as complicated as I like it, but in a well compacted box. Once carefully unwrapped, you have a beautifully woven story.
Here’s the off-putting fact about magazines, though: not only does your story have to be right for the brand of the magazine, but it has to fit in with the particular issue, as well. It means you have to kill two birds with one stone, or none at all.
The rejection bites, but it helps your outlook on what that means. Rejection doesn’t mean your book should be thrown out; it means there’s still room for improvement. Take your book, mold it. Listen to what people are saying, but stand by what you’re set on. Sometimes stubbornness can be a good thing, but just know where to draw the line.
This post is going to end here, so I know it’s rather shorter than the others. My final thought I want to leave you with is to take the time to get to know your characters as thoroughly as you would someone you care about in this tricked-up world we like to call reality. It can make the difference between a forgotten story, and one that widens your reader’s scope for life.