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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Blindly diving off a cliff


I like to think I know myself as a writer. I'm a hybrid between pantser and plotter-- I'll just sit and write for several chapters, getting to know the characters and story, then about five or so chapters in, I'll write a chapter-by-chapter outline. I'm very linear, allowing the story to develop, and interesting bits and bobs to evolve in an organic manner so everything ties together nicely by the end. Generally, I don't start a new story until I'm done with the WIP. I'm very much a character-driven writer, writing very slice-of-life types of stories.

All of that has just gone out the window.

In the last two weeks, as I was chugging along to the end of the current WIP, seeing that lovely light at the end of the tunnel, I was absolutely blindsided by a plot bunny. And oh, what a devious bunny this one has been. Hit me late at night while I was watching the ice dancing Free Dance during the Olympics. I was really tired and drifting and something about the music and the performance and my utter exhaustion conjured up a story and in four minutes and forty-five seconds, I had the entire framework in place.

Next morning, I wondered if I'd been dreaming, then realized, as the entire story came back to me over that first cup of coffee, that no, I hadn't been dreaming, I had really envisioned a complete and total story.

Generally a cause for celebration, right? Not if you're me. Because this is in a genre I just don't do. Those of you who know me, you know how I say that when I was first approached with the idea of writing YA it intimidated me because I'd never envisioned even trying it? This is worse. Like multiplied by infinity worse. I mean, at least with YA, it's not like it was that fundamentally different from the romance/women's fiction work I was creating with adult characters. This, however, is way different.

Like any good coward, I shrieked a good, hearty "Nooooooooooo!!" at my subconscious, but you know how effective that is. As in, it's not. Story would not. leave. me. alone. So I made notes, hoping that would settle the subconscious. Nope. Didn't do it. I whined to my husband, who was no help, whatsoever, saying, "Hey, it sounds like a really intriguing idea." And then further stirred the pot by giving me a character plot bunny addition that was absolutely perfect and made the story take even bigger shape in my head. I whined to my critique partner and really, I should have known better, because she thought it was a fascinating idea with really good breakthrough potential. Finally, in a last-ditch effort, I whined to my agent, without going into specifics. She wanted specifics. I gave them to her and she said, "You must hate me, because I really, really like this idea."

She likes it enough that she's prodding me with sharpened pencils to work up a proposal.


I've set the nearly finished WIP aside (and let me tell you, those characters aren't pleased at being shunted aside) and I'm working on a proposal. The voice in this new one is not fully formed, but definitely insistent. Not only that, but the other day, as I was at my yoga practice, another character let me know he wanted to make an appearance, ratcheting up the volume on the ideas and potential.

I'm unsettled, but I'm not entirely sure it's a bad thing. Some things are exactly the same, such as the research, it's just I have to approach it slightly differently. I have my journals, where I'm jotting ideas down. I've got a music playlist—surest sign that the story is a go. Soundtrack practically created itself.

So I'm diving on into the deep end, feet first, holding my nose, and hoping I surface intact.

How about you guys? You ever take that creative leap into the unknown? How did it work out? Any tips for maintaining sanity or is it just a lost cause?

1 comment:

Jan Blazanin said...

Barbara, I'm envious that a full-blown story popped into your head. When you receive a gift like that you have to go for it. Happy writing!