Day 11

One of my Facebook updates today was: "500 words a day seems very easy, until you try to do that every single day." To that my friend Janet said, "it is easy as long as you know what is happening next."

True, true, very true. One of the challenges of writing novels is that we don't often know what comes next, especially if we're not the outlining type. I write character-driven stories, so I like to write at the seat of my pants and see where my characters take me. I like to be surprised. That's not to say I don't have the foggiest idea of where the plot is heading. I do. I have summaries that say something like "Kai and Andrews became friends." Vague stuff. But how that actually happens is up in the air, and it can go in so many different directions: action-packed, dramatic, emotional, melodramatic, ordinary, contemplative, etc. etc. My biggest challenge today is to come up with a scene that pushes my protagonist and a character named Andrews together in an interesting and dramatic way for the readers to enjoy. Obviously, I could choose not to elaborate on that and just told my readers: yes, the two men have formed a friendship. Something deep down, though, tells me I need to make that into a scene or two, because the friendship between these two characters are so important (to the second part of the story) that it requires a good treatment. The readers deserve to experience that.

Am I being too hard on myself? I wonder sometimes. Certainly I could choose the easier way out and move on with the plot. Sometimes I feel like I'm stalling, because I'm stuck with certain scenes and I'm unable or unwilling to write around them. Some writers would simply put down some placeholders and move on, fulfilling their word count with another scene or two. Me? I try too hard to work through these scenes sometimes, because I'm afraid if I don't, the rest of the story would suffer. I would have taken the wrong path or something would not ring true.

I mean, take this scene for example: "Kai and Andrews became friends." What does it mean? How does it happen? To me, how that happens not only fulfills the purpose of this statement, but has impact on how the rest of the plot unfolds and how their friendship grows. The history and impact of this encounter, in my mind, is very much as important as how it happens, because plot is about choices and has consequences, and these consequences are what make the plot relevant, interesting, and insightful.

So yes, I think I'm being a bit too hard on myself, but I think the work will benefit from it.

The challenge is to meet the daily word count while working through this kind of thought processes and plotting. Today I was able to work through that I'm liking the direction very much and, in the process, gain some additional insight into my characters.

It's been a good week so far.

1000 words today, 5500 words total
354 days and 180000 words to go


Janna Qualman said…
I absolutely agree with you and Janet. Even if I know the story and subplots, I might not know how each scene is going to play out, and that's hard to get past. I don't want to use a place marker and move on, either; I owe it to myself to work through it right now, and that can slow the work. You're not alone! :)

I got almost 1000 yesterday! ...but am sorely lacking today...
Khanh Ha said…
Some writers can talk about their work in progress, and some can't. I belong to the second group. Yet I agree with you on working out the knots of your plot, characterization. Some writers can defer them and move on. I can't. But I don't set a daily quota for my writing. I have a set of rules for writing fiction (see my blog), and rules #3 and #5 are what's related to this post here. That is, write one scene well and that scene will breed the next scene. And I write to the point I would need to stop to refresh myself for the next day. Word count means nothing to me. Zip. Scene accomplishment does. Some days I wrote just a paragraph. Ha! But if it paves the way to the next day's writing, I'm OK with it. And I certainly don't look forward to the supposedly 'completion date'. It's like hearing your kid yell at you from the backseat, 'Are we there yet?' Nope. Not there yet. Just chugging along and enjoying every bit of the journey.

Btw, will read your The Pacific Between. Nice novel.
Ray Wong said…
Thanks Khanh. I think every write should figure out their processes.

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