Rebuilding the Story – CoronaLife Day 208

With me, my daughter, and my husband all fighting for bandwidth on a DSL line all day, we were running into problems. So we finally broke down and got cable internet. Hopefully the increased bandwidth will erase the problems we’ve been having. We are also keeping the DSL as backup in case our cable goes down, which it seems to do with regularity in our neighborhood. I think I may just stay on the DSL and let them have the cable—the DSL is sufficient for what I need.

I’ve been chipping away at Veritas again this week. I am into the part of the story where serious rebuilding will happen, as the new seeds I planted in the opening bear fruit. So while the general direction of the plot won’t change, how we get there most definitely will. I am trying, among other things, to make my protagonist more active, driving the story more than being pulled along by events. It’s difficult because she is literally trapped in her mind for a significant portion of this section, so having her more active is a bit head-scratching. But I have some ideas to play with.

I know very well that even with all the work I am doing on this editing pass, I will need to do at least one more. Whenever you go in and work on a nearly-complete manuscript and copy, paste, delete, insert, there are going to be continuity issues. So I need to do that, and I need to make sure that all the new stuff hangs together with all the old stuff and that it all makes sense. So still a long way to go, but I am confident I will get there in the end.

Also, I got my ballot in the mail this week, so I am doing a shout-out to everyone to make sure you vote, whether by mail or in person, depending on your state’s procedures. Your vote is your constitutional right and the foundation of our country, so make it count. If you don’t know how or where to vote in your area, call your County Clerk or Board of Elections office, and they will tell you where to go. Make a plan to vote and let your voice be heard!

The Value of Looking Back

This past week I have had characters from the past haunting my thoughts. Way back in the day, in high school and college, my best friend and I cut our writing teeth on fan fiction. Miami Vice fanfic, to be precise. It was the characters we created for this series that kept pushing their way into my mind last week.

Finally, on Monday, I pulled out one of these old stories and read it all the way through. The world and the people leapt to life for me like they had all those years ago. And the thing is, it wasn’t bad. Sure, it had a glaring plot hole, and our POV did some head-hopping, but the bones were there. The plot and subplots worked together, and the characters were strong and real.

I don’t know why I felt so compelled to revisit these stories, these characters, but I am glad I did. I saw how much my writing has improved, for one thing. But it also reminded me of when writing was fun. No deadlines, no criticism, just me and my best friend spinning tales.

And maybe it was my best friend sending a message to me. She died in 2004, and I lost my writing collaborator as well as my best friend. Perhaps she was reminding me of who I really am. It is so easy as an adult to lose yourself in all the roles you play—wife, mother, daughter, volunteer positions, organizations you are involved in. If you’re not careful, you lose yourself in all the noise. I admit to feeling a bit unmoored lately, wandering in the wilderness of busyness and anxiety.

Looking back at old work has a great deal of value. First, you gain perspective on how far you have come craft-wise. Second, it grounds you in who you are. And third, it reminds you why you used to write in the first place—for joy and excitement.

Have you ever gone back and read your early work?

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2018: My Biggest Takeaway

Complexity and Connection at the PWCThis year’s Philadelphia Writers’ Conference filled my head with new and exciting information, leaving me both exhausted and exhilarated. Now that I have had a few days to let all the swirling ideas settle, one of the main things that stuck with me is the complexity of our craft.

I’m not talking about plot complexity. Even the simplest story is complex in the way I mean. What I mean is how every element of your story impacts the others. In our character workshops, we also crossed into plot. In our plot workshop we also delved into character. Every word choice and point of view feeds into the elusive element of voice. Everything interconnects, playing off each other and driving the story in different ways.

That same complex interconnection often makes revision a mind-bending project. Change one thing about a character, that can change the plot. Change POV, and your voice skews. Change the language and that might suggest a change in structure. Every change, no matter how minor, flows downstream all the way to the end of the novel. Riding those rapids can exhaust you.

This complexity of story comes from the fact that stories reflect the complexity of life. This helps stories translate across different media. The same story can be told orally, in print, in graphic novels, or on a screen large or small. Although the formats differ, the story fabric can be cut and tailored to each one to convey the same meaning and soul as the original story. The interwoven complexity of story gives it both strength and malleability.

Given the complex nature of writing and all its elements, is it any wonder that the craft of writing is so hard? The work of weaving a tale can take an emotional, psychological, and even physical toll on writers. To combat this, we need connectivity of our own—a network of friends and supporters who understand and can help lift us over the obstacles we encounter. This is one of the values of conferences like the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. There we meet and connect with other writers and form bonds that last.

Thank you, PWC, for 70 years of helping writers connect so we can weave our stories together.

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