Progress Report: Novel + Stories

Good morning! It’s been a busy past couple of weeks, both in real life and the fictional ones I get to escape to through writing. Here are some quick updates on each project I’m working on, both for your information and to hold me accountable to finish them amidst the hubbub of everything else.

The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales: all of the stories I wish to include are back from my editor. I’ve gone through and made revisions on most of them. I plan to start piecing the collection together and prepare it for publishing once the novel is with my editor, as the novel takes up a great deal of head space right now. I’m keeping the short stories in mind, though, by submitting some to literary contests and journals as I find them. It’s good practice in terms of putting my stuff out there, getting used to feedback, getting used to receiving rejection, and conceptualizing them for other audiences. Plus, on the chance they win or get accepted, it would be a great experience.

Please Give: my master draft now has less words, but is more complete. I’ve found that the best way to write the pieces I have left is to remove or change the pieces that aren’t working as-is, putting me in an odd overlap of both writing and revision. It’s an odd feeling, but a satisfying one, especially since the changes and additions help me see the story from beginning to end as a cohesive whole – more than I have yet, and seemingly more each day. It’s exciting, and I look forward to replacing my [bracket] notes with actual pieces.

In between those two projects, I’m also writing down lines and ideas for my next pieces. I can’t help but write, and it’s an awesome feeling. It’s a feeling, though, that now needs to reverberate through the stories themselves. TTFN!


Letting Your Characters Fail

One of the hardest parts of writing is knowing when you have to let your characters fail. I’ve been working on Please Give, the novel I detailed on Tuesday, for several months. These months have flown by because it includes characters I really like. I like all of my stories’ protagonists, to an extent; even the ones that are less savory. I like them enough to tell their story, yet also think they deserve exactly what happens to them.

What’s more difficult, though, is writing situations where I know they’re getting what they deserve, and yet it breaks my heart that it has to be that way. As I mentioned on Tuesday, the protagonist of Please Give, Beth, has trouble opening up to people. She worries that if she opens up, she’ll say the wrong thing — and many times, she does. She often has such high aspirations that she either gets overly proud, or else places so many expectations on herself, that she falls hard when she thinks they haven’t been met or acknowledged. Her worst tendency, though, is her tendency to close up even when those around her want to know what she’s thinking, or want to be there for her. All of these things lead to various conflicts throughout the book, especially with the people she loves.

I care about her, and as such, I find myself getting in the trap of trying to fix her mistakes for her after I’ve written them. I’ll read something, and see what more she could have said to make the situation turn out better, and I’ll add it in. Sometimes it’s a necessary revision, as it removes unnecessary conflict, or is genuinely something I forgot to include. Usually, though, I force myself to take it back out. It’s the story that’s there, and while I have the power to change that, it’s not a power that should be abused. It’s my job as the author to tell her story, not to fix it for her so that she’ll never fail. Sometimes she has to, and usually, she needs to.

As I’ve written and revised, I have to remind myself repeatedly that a story where no mistakes are made isn’t a story at all. It’s difficult watching my characters stumble, and admittedly, I’ve helped myself move past that by writing down notes or even passages where the conflict is later resolved, just to assure myself and the characters that things will turn out okay. There are other conflicts, though, that don’t see a happy resolution. They’re mistakes, and they’re mistakes that my character feels guilty about; but they exist, and sometimes they don’t disappear with a magic wand, just like in real life. Real life, though, goes on, even without a swift conflict resolution or an author going back and pressing “Delete.” It moves on, as does the story, and as should I.