Changing Mid-Stream: Handling Frustration

Forgive me if there is some tense confusion, as I’m writing this entry the night before posting it, I’m fried from a long day, and I’ve hit a sort of writing “bottom”. I wanted to capture some of what’s going on in my head on this blog, though.

I’ve mentioned before that I dictate a lot of my first draft. Entanglements had been taking up the bulk of my dictation time, but with my vacation approaching next week, I wanted to build up a good stockpile of posts to leave for folks. A combination of this and working on Episode 1 for the Rule of Three had temporarily pushed Entanglements to the back-burner. Being nearly finished with Episode 1, I decided to turn back to Entanglements, pick up where I’d left off. It had only been a couple of days. No problem, right?

Wrong. I ran smack-dab into a brick wall of indifference. The original concept had included a second captive in a room next to the protagonist, Carla, and the two whispered to each other through a grate between the rooms. Good idea to help remove some of the isolation and give Carla a sympathetic character, so we weren’t stuck inside her head at all times.

Problem is, after the first such instance of this grate-talking went smoothly, I lost all desire to write another grate-talking scene. Why? Because the dynamics of the scene had been totally robbed. Carla and Jenny (soon to be renamed) had been reduced to talking heads. Every single time the story got moving, I’d have to add these grate-talking scenes to help move the plot along, and the story came to a screeching halt.

This isn’t new to me. This sort of thing had happened during the original draft of Corridors of the Dead, and I had ignored it, just thinking that I was suffering writing fatigue. In retrospect, it should have been a warning sign. When it started happening again today, I took a step back. Couldn’t be writer fatigue. The Rule of Three story is humming along, and I’m into it. I’m enjoying the editing process on Corridors. It’s something wrong with the story.

In retrospect, the problems with the plot of Entanglements have been clear from the start; this will, after all, be the third major retooling. Parallel stories are insanely difficult to pull off, and I knew that I was in for a tough time. Still, I pushed forward, thinking that I had the plot structure and tools to do it.

Clearly, I was wrong. I just cannot come up with a way to make these stories intertwine that doesn’t feel incredibly forced and contrived, and it’s been bothering me. Combine that with the grate-talking problem, and I was forced to admit that some major changes had to be undertaken. Where to go, where to go?

The answer to the grate-talking was to put the women in the same room, and put the other two rooms in the cabin to good use. This gave a lot of new dynamic possibilities. The answer to the interweaving tales was to rip the other story out. It will become its own novel at some point, but right now, I’m just not ready for that. Baby steps. This, of course, alters some of the basic premise of the story, so I had to change Carla’s gift. The process of changing this gift (this is an idea I won’t give away) ended up altering the nature of the narration, and so I’ll be handing off both narration duties and the love interest to the second woman in the room.

Funny how this stuff happens. That second woman was a last-minute addition, someone interesting who came to mind, and I found it a lot more comfortable and fun in her head. She started stealing larger and larger chunks of the grate-talking scenes, so why not make her the narrator, even if she’s not “the protagonist”?

Of course, you can’t just remove half the story and expect it to stand up on its own. Thankfully, some ideas for subplots presented themselves, and I’m going to run with them.

I mean, overall, it could be a lot worse. I could be looking at the flaming wreckage of a great idea, trying to figure out what the hell went wrong. As it is, I have about 20,000 words that can largely be re-used. So rather than thinking of this as a rewrite, I’m looking at it as a chance to start a new novel with 20,000 words ready to go. That’s really not so bad. And I think the new concept is going to be pretty strong with the confusing, uncertain elements of the second story removed. Sleek, streamlined. Not bad traits for a novel.

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  1. Been there with my own work — I call it surgery. And have I finished that novel yet? Well, yes and no. I finished two revisions on it this year and shelved it again. It still needs work. I know what I have to do, but I’m tired of messing with it at the moment. Will move on then come back to in in the near future. Sounds like you’ve come up with a great plan for getting yours back on track.

  2. Surgery! I like it 🙂 I have a novel myself that was supposed to come between Book 1 and 2 of my trilogy, but I pushed it back to coming out between 2 and 3 because of the exact reason you’re talking about – the concept just needed work and I got tired of trying to fit the pieces together. I’m feeling pretty optimistic about this reboot, though. All the elements are there, they just need to be re-arranged and tweaked.

  3. I added a character for comedy and color and to bring information to the primaries. He took on a life of his own and is my beta reader’s favorite character. Funny how these things happen.

  4. Major changes can be difficult. An editor told me I had used the wrong POV character for one of my books. Knowing what I know now, she was write, but I couldn’t then (and still can’t) contemplate changing the protagonist. It’s supposed to be his story.

    I found a solution, but it involves a prequel trilogy and then I’ll have to completely rewrite that original MS from scratch. Major rewrites wasn’t something I could face at the time, so that MS has been sitting for about 5 years now and will keep sitting while I write the prequel trilogy.

    • Well, is there a compromise solution where the protagonist and the narrator can be separate people, like I’m using? I know it has the severe limitation of the two characters having to be in proximity for most of the story – is that an issue? But yeah, I hear you on the rewrite thing. I had to give the Corridors rewrite a couple of months to simmer because I was sick to death of the project. Came back to it with a fresh approach. Hope the prequel trilogy does that for you.

  5. Pingback: Progress Check: The Joy of Writing | Shaggin the Muse

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