Saturday, September 28, 2013

About never revealing your plot.

As a three-time NaNoWriMo failure, there are a few words of writing wisdom I cannot impart enough, and I just broke my number one rule this morning, in my office, not 30 minutes ago:

Do not, under any circumstances, ever attempt to lay out and explain your plot.  To anyone.

This, ladies and gentlemen, would be me and my husband, the non-reader.

This, ladies and gentlemen, would be the number one reason I have never successfully finished any of the three novels on which I've begun.

I can hear you now as you begin to form your arguments.  "But wait a minute," you'll say.  "If I don't tell someone what I'm writing, how will I know if it's good?  I mean, it's my (husband/wife/child/significant other/parent/teacher/boss).  How can I not share my brilliance with him/her/them?"

Listen to me:  don't do it.

Here's why.

I'm going to tell you the plot synopsis of a book, and then I'm going to tell you another plot synopsis of the same book.

From - "The story of misfit high-school girl, Carrie White, who gradually discovers that she has telekinetic powers.  Repressed by a domineering, ultra-religious mother and tormented by her peers at school, her efforts to fit in lead to a dramatic confrontation during the senior prom."

I don't know about you, but that doesn't do too much for me.  Nowhere in King's review do you garner a sense of the sympathy you're going to end up feeling for Carrie...and you do feel for her, no matter how stone cold of a reader you pretend to be.

Now, here's a second synopsis of Carrie, from a random comment by Kathy on Goodreads:  "It's a gruesome and disturbing tale of a young woman with an extraordinary gift who, pushed too far by her religious mother and the relentless mocking of her schoolmates, wreaks a terrible revenge on those who've made her suffer."

That's my kind of review.  I see revenge, I see relentless behavior, I see a bold and brave young woman who fights back.  Not simply a "misfit" as described in King's review of Carrie.

Same book:  I'd read it after the second review, but probably not after the first.

Interesting, right?  Imagine, if you will, your sixty-something-year-old mother's review of one of the Star Wars movies as opposed to that of your thirty-something husband.  Big difference.  Huge.

So if you pitch your writing idea to someone whose tastes are just a hair off from your own, you're going to get that "deer in the headlights" look, and no matter how sure of yourself you are as a writer, I promise you that when you get that look from someone close to you, you're going to get knocked down.

I promise you that.

If that person truly loves you, they'll try to think of comebacks that won't hurt your feelings, like, "That sounds great, babe."  Or, "Oh!"  But you'll never get the emphatic and honest result you're looking for, because these characters are still yours.  The person to whom you're laying out your story hasn't met them yet and has no interest in whether or not they fail or succeed.  You are the one who loves them.  You are the one laying their story on paper.

This is why hardly anyone has read Forrest Gump in book form, yet everyone knows the movie.

Hold it in.  You love your story.  You're incredibly excited about it and you just want someone to share in your excitement, and that's great.  We get that.  I get that.  I do.  So when someone asks, and they inevitably will, sum up your story in one word.  That's all you give them - one word.  ("It's about fishing, Ma.")  You're the one who is pouring your heart out into the story:  tell them they must wait to read it until it's finished.  You, too, shouldn't try to sell your reader on a fragmented piece of your story.  Writing a blurb cannot be accomplished until you know how the story ends, so finish it.

Finish it.

I can't say it enough.  Finish it.

Don't let anyone inadvertently steal the wind from your sails.  It may happen, but you can prevent it in this situation.

In his On Writing, Stephen King offers to the reader an excerpt of "1408" as it appeared as a rough draft.  If you don't find strength in your own writing after reading that, well, I'm not sure what kind of approval you're looking for.  The bottom line is, the draft is going to suck.  You yourself while composing said draft are going to suck, and you don't know how much of the story is going to change before you write those final ending words.  Hold on to your wind, hold your story close, and finish it.

Cherstin, out.