Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What went wrong

Thanks for all the encouragement on my Epic Fail. I've decided to deconstruct what really happened with MS4 Rest In Peace, to help me grow from the experience.

So here are some of the things I struggled with:

All my work thus far has been YA or non-fiction. I like humourous women's fiction, with a bit of a moral behind it, so I leave myself open to some day writing adult fiction. Even so, I know that when I write an adult novel, it's not going to take itself very seriously. The MC is going to be a bit of a wildflier, Disney Princess, traveloholic. Ditto for the plot. Expect something not quite "realistic". Because that's what my adult life is life. As an adult I've worked on a submarine, lived in Japan, been in the military, etc.

MS4RIP was about the earthquake and my first foray into adult fiction. I made it an adult novel because it happened to me as an adult. But the subject matter was so serious, I felt like it was eating my soul. Even as I write this, there's another aftershock. A small one, maybe a 4.3 or so. And I'm ignoring it; I don't turn on the tv, I no longer look at the newspaper, I don't open the attachments from the Embassy anymore. Because dealing with the reality of the situation is hard. If I am eventually to tackle this topic, I'm going to need another angle to take a bit of the edge off.

I've always been a pantser. With every draft I write, I get a little more organised. Still, when I start I have a fair knowledge of the characters and setting, where the story starts, often how it ends, and nothing more.

MS4RIP was based on my experiences with the earthquake. I didn't want to write a memoir because I don't read memoir, and because I'm not the best with details. So I made up a cast and inserted them into what happened.

So I knew the plot. I knew every ounce of what happened. There was going to be stuff that I injected for conflict's sake later on, but the beginning was all a historical fact. And it bored the life out of me to write it.

Characters are one of my strengths. I like psychology and I love theorising about people. According to critiquers, it comes out well on the page.

I made up the characters in MS4RIP on a whim. They weren't well defined, since they were essentially stand-ins for real ppl. I didn't want to give them the same personalities as the originals, and I didn't bother to make up new personalities for them, so they just didn't have ANY personalities at all. Characters with no personality? Bad, bad, bad idea.

I think voice is the strongest facet of my writing. It's also the one I get the most compliments on. That's not to say I'm good. It's just better than the other parts. lol.

But with a plot that bored me, flat characters, and in a genre I'm not too fussy about, my voice choked up. Occasionally there'd be a sentence that sparkled like a merpire, but most of it just wasn't up to scratch.

1. If I'm going to venture into adult novels, it can't be with a heavy topic.
2. I am still not a plotter. Knowing every detail SUX DUX!
3. I'm a character writer. I can't write a novel without characters that I'm bewitchedly in love with.
4. If I don't love the story (despite the soundness of the plot) and the characters, then the voice won't come.

Thanks for listening.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad you figured it out! And that Epic Fail picture is priceless.

Aleeza said...

with those last four points you put up, i think i can safely say we're like, writer twins, heh :D

Dianne K. Salerni said...

It sounds as if you know exactly what went wrong, and that's good. It also sounds as if you wanted to write this story as a bit of catharsis, but as you said, it bored you to write about characters you weren't in love with and a plot that had no surprises for you.

I'm a pantster myself, and every manuscript is an adventure. As I said before, if this topic is meant for you, it will come back to you in a different form and you'll take it from there.