Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is there a plot here or what?

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confuseJust in case anyone missed it before: I really hate the last bits of the revision process, especially since it's closely linked the the query process. Both test my current level of self actualization and maturity. I feel like I wake up screaming, "Mommy, I really am a writer! I am! I am! . . . . Right? You think I am. Right?"

If you're new to writing novels, you're probably just discovering that writing a novel is really freakin' hard. If you've written a few, you know that writing them is really freakin' hard. Novels have a lot of moving parts to keep track of and they all need to be interesting and support each other or the whole thing falls down into a stinky pile of you-know-what. Unlike building a bookshelf, we don't have tools to give us objective feedback on how we're doing along the way. At least when you're putting a shelf up, you can stick a level on that puppy and see where the bubble goes. Then, you can decide whether to correct or go for the lopsided look.

Not so with writing.

For anyone who loves rules, don't panic! Plenty of people are happy to give you rules. Check out the blogosphere for recommendations on various writing gurus and their rules. The problem with those rules is one person's rule is another's sin.

The one I've been struggling with lately: where does the "real" story start? Obvious, right? What's the point of writing anything if it's not part of your story. I agree. That's silly and I don't want to read something that's not part of the story when I pick up a book to read a story. Also, that's just what I want: the story. I don't read books for the plot.

But aren't they the same thing???? Um, no. They're not. The story is the emotional journey your characters complete. The plot is more of a formulaic skeleton that supports that journey (hopefully). If they don't match, that's a problem, but yes, they're different. The story is the part that should stick with the reader. Plot is important, but it's not the part that wins your reader's heart.

Emotional journeys require an emotional investment on two levels: we need the reader to be emotionally invested and we need the character to be emotionally invested. Consequently, we need to allow the reader some time to get to know our character. So, you can't just jump right into the really "good stuff" right away. Okay, anyone can rearrange the pages so that happens and edit to smooth it out so it reads well, but nobody is going to care.

I believe in opening with a "hook" or a scene that is interesting and action packed, but I don't think that needs to be the same thing as the first plot point. I welcome other thoughts and ideas.