Because I somehow felt that I hadn't whined ENOUGH here on the blog, I also sent a whining email to Chessie. She said she knew how I felt, because it had happened to her when she was writing a character that didn't think/talk/react like some of her others had. The characters that behaved more like her, she said, were easier to write. But those that didn't were more of a challenge.
Which is when it occurred to me - ONE's main character thought about and reacted to things in a way that felt really familiar to me.
This main character? Not so much.
When I realized this, the rest of it came to me in a rush:
Not only is the main character different - the entire book is different, you guys.
I know. This probably should have been obvious to me before I started trying to write the darn thing. After all, here are the things I knew about this book even before I started drafting:
- The main-main character undergoes a sudden and dramatic life change right the beginning. She has a character arc, of course, but the events that make it up are kind of crazy and tumultuous as opposed to quiet and steady.
- But that's not all! The book actually has two main characters.
- The main love story is between the main character and a minor supporting character, and is tangential to the main plot.
- The story is futuristic sci-fi, and requires extensive worldbuilding.
- It has some really terrifying bits (at least to me) and people die. Kind of a lot of people.
- There's a resolution, but really no happy ending.
- No one would call this story fluff. Unless they REALLY weren't paying attention.
For the first couple weeks I was (purportedly) working on this project, I acknowledged all the above things, but somehow didn't realize what they all meant:
This story is different, so it has to be written differently.
- It requires a lot of research, most of which cannot be accomplished by Googling stuff.
- It has two main characters whose goals dovetail about a quarter of the way through the story, despite wildly differing backgrounds and motivations.
- Which means the story must be (gasp!) outlined. (I have never outlined any aspect of any story before ever ever ever)
- I might have to do some writing exercises to really get into the head and the voices of these characters, and to make them distinct. (I have never done writing exercises. Thinking about writing exercises makes my skin crawl.)
I'm not used to doing any of this. I don't know how to do any of this.
But that doesn't mean I'm going to quit. What does it mean?
This story is different. So I have to learn to be a different writer.
Or, less dramatically, I have to accept that writing this story requires skills I haven't mastered yet, then buckle down and work my butt off to get those skills and totally rule at them.
It would be so, so easy to throw my hands up in the air, give up on CHROME, and write another story just like ONE. To let another main character with the same slightly sarcastic and vaguely optimistic first-person present voice tell another story about finding herself in some unexpected and beautiful way (and kissing a very cute boy quite a lot along the way.)
Don't get me wrong - ONE is a good story. It's a strong voice. It has sweet characters. I love it deeply, and I believe in it with all my heart.
But I didn't start writing so I could write the same story over and over again.
I don't want to get better at writing one way - I want each new book to make me a better writer in a different way.
And, what do you know - as soon as I really, truly accepted all this?
Writing got a little easier.
I don't know if it was me giving myself permission to let the suck flow, just like I did while drafting my very first manuscript (yep, the one before ONE.)
I don't know if it was finally accepting that I didn't know that much about how this MC would sound, and letting myself experiment with that.
I don't know if it was admitting that yes, I did need at least some semblance of an outline before tackling the writing (which I jotted down before I started.)
But this weekend, I nearly doubled CHROME's word count.
(Amidst a slog of a birthday party, a two-hour-long work thing, a morning of baking, and sundry childrearing and household responsibilities.)
Yep. Somehow, just accepting that this story-writing would be different - not harder, necessarily, but a completely new experience - let me just get the words out onto the screen again. It feels awesome.
Okay, sweet readers. Please share your stories of writing breakthroughs. How have your stories made you a better and better writer with each one?