Even though I currently have two full works-in-progress running through my head, my evil brain decided at 4am this past Thursday morning (hi, Kate!) to come up with a completely new plot bunny. The good news is that this potential plot develops rather organically from the stories I’ve been writing these last few years, so I think I’m in a better place now to tackle some of the issues to be presented therein than I would have been even a year or two ago. The bad news, of course, is that I don’t need a new story to write right now.
I’ve had persistent plot bunnies hijack my waking brain before. Usually, writing down the one or two integral scenes in my head allows me to move on. This happened most recently with that bit of Pacific Rim side character story I had. But, this new one is more elaborate than a single scene. It’s grown from a place of inner turmoil and dissatisfaction, one that would take more than a few thousand words to satisfy the nagging in my head and guts.
I keep thinking the stories and characters to have come before each new story are simply leading me to The Story of my writerly life…which each successive story still fails to be. Too long, too complicated, too much sex, not enough action – there’s a slew of reasons why my inner critic and editor always decides any particular story is not The Story I’m meant to share with the world…if there even is such a thing, for me. I write and share those stories anyway, of course, because I can’t not write, and I feel like a story not shared is hardly a story at all. But, how am I supposed to know where to put my efforts? Just keep moving forward, absorbing and learning and creating as I go? Should I just give up on The Story and write the lesser stories that come into my head but still manage (somehow, folks surely wonder) to bring me joy?
For anyone interested, below is the plot idea I had, the story’s working title being the title of this post. I guess I’m curious to know from any of you if the idea is worth pursuing…though, I’m pretty sure it will get written no matter what anyone says, if I decide so. Because I’ve been in an FTW sort of mood when it comes to my writing, lately. 😉
Marshall Wright has the perfect uncomplicated life. He loves his days as a paramedic pilot and even more his nights of bachelor autonomy. No clamoring kids, no ball-and-chain, not even a nagging girlfriend to make him stop drinking milk from the carton and leaving the toilet seat up. No one to help him finish off that opened bottle of Shiraz, either, but that’s all right. His freedom isn’t worth the cost of a woman’s saved mobile number, not when there are so many beautiful women to be had.
Civil rights attorney Sasha Price should have been just another beauty to share his bed one night. But, oh! That night! Marshall can’t stop thinking about that night, about the woman who gave as well as she got, enough to make his head spin.
He looks for her again, back at the bar where they met. That one night leads to two, three, four, and more, full of wine and roses. His friends think Sasha may be the one to get Marshall to move on from his swinging bachelor ways. Marshall even starts to think so, too, when the woman of his dreams drops a bomb he never could have suspected.
A girlfriend is complication enough in Marshall’s life. The secret of Sasha Price’s past adds a whole new set of ingredients to the mix.
…But, damn. She might just be worth it.
(This is also a first attempt at me writing a synopsis. I don’t know if it gives away too much of the “plot” in these few paragraphs, and it’s a bit too long to satisfy most submission rules (232 words). The story itself has less to do with the “surprise” than it does with the ramifications of the protagonist learning it. Though, I do wonder whether I should make that particular hurdle known in the synopsis, so readers would know what sort of story they’re in for.)
I won’t put you on the spot about this idea or the synopsis itself, so how about this question: how do you decide on which story you should concentrate, when you’ve got more than one (or two, or three!) fighting for your attention?
That’s a tough question to answer, Mayumi, because I’d bet all writers have to find the approach that works for them! Some bloggers I know are very methodical, working on a single project at a time and refusing to be “sidetracked” by other ideas. At most, they’ll jot down notes on those stories for future consideration. But others have two, three, four, or more WIPs going at any one time. They prefer that variety and when ideas stall on one project or they need a break from it, they happily dive into one of the other stories until the flow returns for another one.
Currently, I’m focusing on the rebuild of one WIP. When ideas for the other rebuild crop up, I’m taking detailed notes but not letting myself dive into the writing. And Meghan’s first novel is also on the back burner, hopefully taking shape in my subconscious. But when I started writing in 2009, only a few months into my first WIP, I suddenly added a second WIP and then even wrote potential scenes for their sequels. Looking back, I’m still not sure if all that juggling is the reason both need a rebuild or if the juggling led to all the needed practice that now leads to what I think are better stories.
I suspect our approaches evolve as we move from novice to intermediate to advanced in our writing. And they’re likely influenced by our writing goals, whether we’re writing solely for personal enjoyment or driven to make a living writing fiction.
I guess the short answer to your question is that my approach is still evolving!
Thanks, JM. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this reply. It’s something I need, right now, to get through all this mess. It’s a wonderful mess, though. 🙂
I don’t doubt you’re right that it’s a unique process for everyone. I suppose I just wanted some affirmation that I wasn’t doing the “wrong” thing by letting my brain get distracted by a completely new story….that I’ve pretty much decided I’m going to write, anyway. 🙂
Thanks again, and hope you got to enjoy our record highs this weekend!
It’s a tough thing. It usually comes down to several things. Mostly, it’s which idea I want to spend the next few years with. The one I am most enamored by usually wins. I keep an idea folder so no idea is lost. It is just put on hold. I also let myself switch between projects so I can work on 3 projects a year. One I will draft and put aside. The next I will revise and put aside. The other I will polish and query. It helps to have a few projects moving forward and that way you never get really sick of any one project. Last year I drafted a new manuscript and revised Six Train and queried Reckonings.
I’ve gone through some old idea folders (usually old notebooks) and had a pretty good laugh. They’re good for that, if nothing else. 🙂 Sometimes, I get a tiny spark for a WIP, though, which is really nice, too.
Sounds like you’ve got your organization all figured out, Kourtney! That’s pretty awesome. 🙂 I think I’m going to write this new plot bunny at the moment, though. I’m already about 3 chapters in, and I’m really enjoying writing it.
Thanks for stopping by! Hope you have a lovely, safe, and cozy holiday. 😀
Really tough question, Mayumi. I have found that my Life tends to decide for me. Some months are more hectic than others; I won’t sleep well; someone in the house will be sick; I’ll have a deadline; holidays — all affect my writing even when I do my writing at 4am (nice to see you writing at 4, btw 😉 )
I find that first and second drafts are very tough, so if my life is overwhelming me then I won’t work on a WIP if it’s in the first or second draft stage. Instead, I’ll work on the rough draft (which is akin to pantsing for me), or I’ll work on a later draft to a novel, or I’ll do research.
If Life is running fairly smoothly, then I have the extra energy and focus to work on drafts that need more attention (first and second drafts usually).
As JM said, every writer finds her own rhythm. And what works one time might not work again. That’s why you have to be partly insane for this gig. 😉
I like that answer, Kate! 😀
You must be right about that last: what’s worked for me in the past isn’t exactly working for me, right now. I’m a bit consumed by this one story, at the moment, and I can’t seem to concentrate on anything else. Part of that, I think, is the clamor of the holidays bearing down. I can handle my own family day-to-day no problem, but extended family creates anxiety. So, this seems to be mostly me escaping for little bits of time here and there.
Thanks for stopping by during this busy season! I always appreciate the thoughtful feedback. Hope your holiday was fun, safe, and restful. 🙂
Mayumi, just wanted to add that the synopsis is very good. You’ve given us the main characters and the central conflict. It reads more like a back cover summary to me though–very hooking and not revealing too much. Tantalizing!
Just a quick note–a synopsis that you submit to agents usually requires that you reveal the surprise and show the entire central plot arc and explain how everything ties up in the end.
Thanks for the insight, Kourtney. So, I guess instead of a “synopsis,” this would be more like a teaser or blurb? I’ll remember that for the future.
I went back and forth about revealing the surprise here. I thought it might scare readers away. But, I suppose an agent *would* have to know where a story is going to go before they take a chance on it. Silly me!
Yes, exactly. This is a great blurb/back cover summary.:) You never reveal the ending in the blurb/summary–so yours works perfect for that! And your blurb/summary is what you use as the hook/summary paragraoh in your query letter.
The synopsis is one of those things agents/editors ask for but it’s not part of your promo materials. The synopsis is the only place you have to reveal the ending to show that your plot ties up properly. 🙂