Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Frustration of Writing---Where I'm At

I had a different post planned for today, but this one seems anxious to be written, so I am obliging.

As most of you know, I've been working on the sequel to All Fall Down.  I drafted the novel last year and was working on revising it.  I was excited to workshop it with my critique group this month.  But then in January, things started to go awry.

First, the more research I did on the Witness Protection program, the more I knew it wouldn't fit in my story.  The facts are, when the witnesses do what they're told, the U.S. Marshals have a very high success rate in keeping them safe.  Not to mention that a lot of Witness Protection storylines are cliche.  The more I researched, the more I realized my storyline needed to go in a different direction, so I had to scrap it.  Which meant cutting out a significant chunk of my book.

So now I'm left with a much shorter book.  I really love the story (it's Colby's, from All Fall Down) and I think the storyline is fresh overall, but having to flesh it out has been much harder than I anticipated without those chapters and without that storyline arc.

It's been suggested to me to have more inner conflict from my hero and to add a secondary storyline.  Which is like telling someone, just lose ten pounds by next month okay?  It's easy to say and hard to do.  I have ideas, but I'm struggling trying to fit them in my plot so that it's cohesive.  Which is probably because I'm doing it backward and should have laid it all down with the plot in the first place.  *deep sigh*  Stupid research.  *insert Julie's whiny voice* Stupid cliche Witness Protection.

*deep breath*

Not one to sit around and whine all day, (only some of it) here are my possible solutions so far:

Sit down and outline the plot as is and with added arcs.  Write down all its intricacies, down and detailed and figure out this puppy and every plot bit before I go any further.

Put back the Witness Protection chapters and just hope readers can suspend disbelief.  And anything that may or may not be cliche.

Release it as a novella.

Shelve it and start over.

Rip it into tiny pieces and throw it in the fireplace and eat some Canadian chocolate while cursing Witness Protection and all the cliche stories that have come before me.

*ahem*  But I digress.

What are your thoughts when the book you'd planned isn't working and needs help?  Do you have any suggestions to add?


7 comments:

KaseyQ said...

I have a couple of things I do-

1. E-mail friends and family with a vague request for help like, “If someone needed proof that a crime happened differently than was originally believed and everyone involved- eyewitnesses and all- were long dead, what kind of proof could they get and how could they get it?” (I actually used this and got some great ideas for my story)

2. Let it be for awhile. It’s like the advice that if you’re trying to remember someone’s name or a book or movie title and it’s on the tip of your tongue, just stop thinking about it. Once your brain is more relaxed, the answer will make its way to the surface. Maybe work on another project for awhile.

3. Do the opposite and continue picking at it until something starts to make sense and you pull on the magic thread that unravels the entire story before your eyes!

Just my suggestions. Good luck!

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Thanks so much for the suggestions, Kasey! I really appreciate it.

Debra Allen Erfert said...

Sometimes the solution comes to you when you aren't trying to thing so hard about it. But sometimes it's good to talk things through, especially if you love your story and don't want to give it up.

Your witness protection storyline. The cliche part would be if someone on the law enforcement side was corrupt and gave up the witness under their protection. Otherwise their identity would be safe, because the feds can do a bang-up job in hiding someone. You can't use the "hiding witness buying coffee beans, or other personalized stuff, off the internet and was tracked" because I seem to remember that already being done--and done very hysterically in an LDS video.

Hmmm . . . here's a thought. Your hiding witness writes a christmas card or letter to a grandmother, or sister, but thinking that if she doesn't put her return address on the envelope that she's not breaking any Witness Protection Program rules. But the bad guys have a stakeout on the place and snatch the envelope and see the postmark, and narrows their search enough that she's seen at a local market and is followed back to her house.

It's one thought. You see, there are always ways to break a rule, even when the person being protected has the best of intentions. You just have to give your witness the means and the reason to innocently break it enough to let the bad guys chase her again. But because she doesn't know why she was spotted, she can't trust even the good guys now. As far as she's concerned, one of the men on the WiP team turned her over for money. Then the hero will be more inclined to believe her in order to keep her safe, at least until he's sure if the good guys are really good, and the bad guys are taken down.

That's just my two cents.

And I think Colby's adorable.

Cheri Chesley said...

I have nothing to add, but I welcome the suggestions!

Jon Spell said...

Why don't you scrap the official Witness Protection and go with something more privatized? Fictionalize a company that specializes in high-price intentional disappearances. (If something like this doesn't already exist, it will.) Then you're not constrained by the trappings of WP, but can still play into the general rules and concepts. It's fresh and you can do pretty much whatever you want with it. Employs seedy characters? Sure. Iffy ethics? Why not?

Your person in WP isn't rich? Perhaps he/she is calling in a favor from someone who is?

Or... how about a retired US Marshal that's willing to pull some strings to get your target into a personalized, unofficial WP?

Rebecca H. Jamison said...

I feel your frustration, Julie, partly because it's very similar to my own. I'm on my second rewrite for my publisher, and I've now had to change basically every subplot in the book. It's pretty scary when the editor tells you it'll be a drastic rewrite. Ugh. But I've pulled it off so far, and I think you can too. Definitely don't shelve the book. Your brain can make it work.

I have almost no ideas for you, except one. Just a brainstorm. Have you thought about a Les Mis type angle. I was thinking of how Jean Val Jean had pulled off his new identity, then someone was falsely accused and he was the only one who could set things right. Then there was all this inner conflict, etc. Of course, it'd be different for an innocent character like yours. Just a thought, and maybe it would have to work in a different way to make sense.

Kristine Nielson said...

There's always magic science, too. You could have your bad guy purchase/have on hand some magic tracking device/voice recognition/face recognition that finds them. What if your main character was recognized from the background of someone's photo on facebook? Or what if your bad guy hired the amazing blind guy from this last episode of Castle?

FWIW, I don't mind novellas. Some days they're perfect, in fact. Good luck with the project, whatever you decide to do with it. I'm sure it'll be a fun read and will find an audience no matter how short or long it ends up.