Great Big Switch

As my writing friends know, I’m about to put the poems to bed for the summer and ease back into long fiction. For years I’ve had three novels sitting on the shelf and been avoiding them like guilty memories. Each one has a full draft, but not full enough. I’ve written in short forms for so long that I tend to condense even when I should develop. Of course, my poetry-writing partner, Larry, often tells me that words are cheap and I could just spend a few more. It’s not the words that I lack. After all, English can claim nearly two million, and I know quite a few of them.

The development that I’m lacking in the novels has to do with plot, setting, and character arcs. I have picked one manuscript, engaged a writing coach and developed my initial questions, the ones I think about in the dark when I would normally be sleeping.

  • Is the opening scene dynamic enough or just throat clearing?
  • Where will I insert a generous flashback that shows the protagonist’s life before she fell through a gap in time? She has to develop, but where and how much do I show her backstory?
  • Would the whole thing work better in first person or should I stick to a limited third?
  • Do I need more “neepery”? (Isn’t that a wonderful word? It means, according to Steven Harper in Writing the Paranormal Novel, “the cool research stuff you include in your book . . . ” A great book on writing, BTW.) Or less neepery?
  • Just how many themes are enough?

This whole book thing is growing like kudzu. Can I do it? Especially when the idea sprouts that I might be writing the first book in a trilogy. Oh, that’s really making my pulse race. These books could take over my life. But, I project. First things first, read through the ms as it is and make some notes; talk with Lori DeBoer about it, stop reading about writing and write. Every story develops one sentence at a time and then you string those sentences into scenes and scenes into chapters. I can do that. Can’t I? I’ll let you know. And if someone out there knows an easier way, please tell me.

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