Monday, August 4, 2014

Crossing the Finish Line

Roz Morris has written a very useful book entitled, Nail Your Novel.  The marketplace is full of books about writing. Some refer to the style and others to the plot and structure, but Morris has a unique and slightly different approach. She asks this question: Why do some novels languish in a drawer? Two or three hundred pages, sit one atop the other, abandoned, but not forgotten. Rejection may be the culprit. It could be certain facts alluded to in the rejection letters that may cause many a writer to sigh, put the manuscript away and abandon the dream. Anne of Green Gables, the best-selling book of all time, was stashed in a hat box sitting on the top shelf of the spare room closet. Spring cleaning and looking at it with fresh eyes gave Lucy Maud Montgomery the courage to try again. Harry Potter was rejected by twelve publishers before one accepted it. Whether fatigue or disappointment leads to abandoning the work, I would advise against giving up on it altogether. Roz Morris says she has figured out how to “fix and finish with confidence.”

According to Morris, there are “five main reasons why people start writing novels and don't finish them.

They ground to a halt after the first flush of enthusiasm.

They kept seeing other books they wanted to make it like and kept changing their mind.

They lost confidence.

They had to leave it for awhile and then couldn't pick up the thread.

They don't get much time to write.” page 20

Can you picture being the friend or spouse of a person citing these reasons? Wouldn't the words of advice come out in one big gush? Wouldn't you fall all over yourself trying to assure the writer to soldier on and fix whatever the problem may be?

Yet I can see anyone of the five aforementioned issues stopping me in my tracks. When you are in your solitary confinement tip-tapping away on your computer, writing like a house on fire, with the words flowing freely, you are completely engaged in fantasy. The harsh light of day can burst that bubble, and it can be frightening to wash up on shore spitting sand out of your mouth. One can question their sanity: Am I out of touch with reality altogether, one might ask? The answer is yes, but don't worry about it.

Morris has a list of solutions for each problem. Most of them involve dealing with the problems before the real work begins. Know where you are going. Have a plan. Move on to the next step and then the next, and do not be afraid. 

It may come down to simplifying in the end. Morris writes:

"A story is usually someone trying to do something, or trying to prevent something. The story ends when they have done it, or done something else instead that put an end to the journey. To spice things up they have obstacles, or conflict, which make it all the more troublesome than they imagined when they started." P. 38

Morris has great advice for the re-writes and second and third drafts.

"To edit your draft effectively, you need to see the book as a whole, not trudge through the forest of words, hacking at whatever you see."                                                                                        P. 114

"Good, satisfying novels have sound structure. The individual scenes have more power because a scene works within the context of a story as well as on its own. Novels whose structure is not robust feel aimless, wander off the point and lose the reader's interest."                                                       P. 114

Morris advises going back to the synopsis to get back on track. Discarded bits never go away altogether. They may form the kernel of a new story.  Most of us get hung up on the idea of the time it took to write those bits in the first place. It is hard to admit that it was to no avail, but all writers must cut, as surely as men go down to the sea in boats. If you cannot bear to part with them, file them, and maybe you can fashion them into something someday. If not, remember, that no time spent writing is ever wasted. In the end, if the advice of Roz Morris enables me to nail my novel, I will write her a thank you note. For now, I am figuring out what to cut, what to keep, and what to re-arrange.

1 comment:

Jennifer Rova said...

Lots of good information in this post. I will look for the book.