I made significant progress today in refining my novel structure. When I say refining the structure, I’m referring to sharpening the goals and relationships between the main character and the influence character, between the main character and the antagonist. The intent was to create a little more conflict between themes and plot while also developing the main character more sharply. It’s not so much a retelling, but a reshaping or a more clear expression. I was fearful that a complete retelling was in the offing; that was thankfully not the case. I did get something right!
The week or more of agonizing the story was perhaps good, only in the sense that I got away from it long enough to get a better perspective. I also encountered an over-used axiom about traveling your own road. My road has meaning only for me, ultimately. People might benefit from the choices I made, but ultimately what I learn, I had to learn; that may not be the same for everyone. As the Knights of the Round Table were told when embarking on the search for the Holy Grail, don’t follow each other, look for your path.
That all sounds rather banal
One man’s banality is another’s revelation. The pain I experienced finally produced some results that now require execution. I am reminded of the golfer, Ben Hogan, who is reputed to be a horse’s patooty! He did not suffer fools or simpletons.
One Man’s Patooty…
When Hogan talked about work and his golf game he spoke of “Digging it out of the ground.” Some people talk of “woodshedding”, others call it “Heavy lifting.” Whatever name you want to call it is fine, but I rather like the organic feeling of “digging it out of the ground” – it implies a relationship between us and something else, namely the ground, earth, our world.
My gut feeling about the current state of the book told me that something was lacking. Only by digging it out of the ground, that is, pondering and re-evaluating assumptions and ideas, and challenging myself to be more specific, would I find a solution to execute. Admittedly, this is only half the battle; executing the decisions and choices properly is the other half of the equation.
My rejections these days seem to be more specific. Now I get comments suggesting the story was good, but development is needed. There are also mechanical issues – in other words, grammar and punctuation. One agent suggested I retain an editor, cautioning me to not be offended. Everyone works with an editor these days. He went on to say that fiction is so brutal today that for an unknown writer to get representation and published the writing can not be simply good, it must be extraordinary.
This led me to yet another seemingly tired axiom of “Don’t sweat what you can’t change.” Our time should be spent working on those things we can change. Admittedly, I can, over time, change my skill in grammatical structure, but not by the weekend so I might get back to work on this novel! I can’t change the weather, the fact I need to work to survive, the fact that I have other responsibilities apart from writing that requires my attention. I can’t change those things; what I can change is the juice or life of the story, since it is not grammatical, only expressed in grammatical terms.
I may well need an editor when I finally feel comfortable with the shape and pulse of the story. That’s Ok. By digging the story out of the ground, I am working my will over those things my will can change. Those that I can’t change, so be it, or if possible, get help. There’s no shame in help.
I shall not dismiss every catch-phrase of collective wisdom as banal, either. We learn, hopefully, what we need to learn in our own sequence and time. Using banal as a label seems rather arrogant, don’t you think?