Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Plot vs. Story

Pardon me while I do a victory dance. I wrote nearly 6,000 words yesterday. I'm excited about today because I'm coming up on a huge scene I've been imagining for a couple of years. I want to do it justice, so I'm a little nervous, but I'm also eager to see it come to life. The chance to write this scene alone is making me glad I decided to go ahead and write this whole book. It's nice to be at a place in your career when publishers are willing to look at just a proposal instead of the whole book, but there's no guarantee they'll buy the proposal, and it gets very frustrating writing a lot of beginnings without seeing them come to fruition.

Then there's the fact that I'm not a very good proposal writer. It's not the synopsis that hangs me up. That part's easy because I'm a plotter. It's the partial book that's the problem because writing the first fifty or even seventy pages doesn't really tell me anything about the book. At that point, it's still lifeless and soulless, so I think my proposals come out kind of mechanical.

I read a writing book once that separated the "plot" from the "story." The plot was the events that happen in the book, while the story is the emotional undercurrent that gives the plot meaning. When I write a proposal, I may know the plot, but I don't really know the story until I've written the whole thing -- and sometimes the story will significantly affect the plot.

I've been able to do proposals for my series because I already know those characters, and I don't think the publisher was really looking at the proposal itself, just the numbers on whether there should be more books. But trying to write just proposals for entirely new things seems to be my hangup. I'm seeing that in completing something that got stuck in the proposal state and never really went anywhere. If I want it to have enough life that a new publisher will get excited and want to start a new series with me, then I'm going to have to buckle down and write an entire book. Maybe someday I'll learn to write a partial that's still good. Better yet, maybe someday I'll sell well enough that the selling process will be along the lines of, "You gonna write another book? Okay, we'll take it."

The other thing I'm learning is that ideas have a gestation period, and sometimes rushing off to write something as soon as I get an idea that excites me is the worst thing I can do. Then the idea isn't fully formed and whatever I write comes off half-baked. It's better if I can let the idea swirl around in the subconscious for months or even years while I work on other things. It was a year and a half between the time I first got the idea for Enchanted, Inc. and the time I started writing it, and I think that was a big reason why that book was so easy to write. Then I got a lot of the ideas for the next book while I was writing that one, and it was a year later that I started working on it. With the project I'm working on now, it's been a couple of years since I put it into a proposal form, and I'd been thinking about parts of it for far longer than that. My recent proposal flailing has involved ideas I started working on as soon as I got them, and maybe they weren't ripe yet.

So maybe the next thing I work on should be that book I've been playing with for about eighteen years ...

But first, it's been a rainy morning, so it should be a good working day, and I'm eager to start writing -- and it's not even noon! Go, me!

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