There was a time about a year ago when I wrote a book. It was this book, the very novel after which my blog is named. I thought, “There! I wrote a book.” I wrote it straight through and I printed off pages and I stuck them away and I didn’t read them until I got to the end. The end, of course, was horrible. The book, of course, was horrible. But it was the feeling that was wonderful. I wrote a book.
You see, when you write a book in six weeks, when you write a book just to get a book written so you can have something to eventually write a book with, you forget about the basics of fiction. At least, I did. I forgot about plot. I forgot about “scenes.” I forgot about language (I meant to, it was a “shitty first draft” on purpose, after all). I forgot about character motives and dramatic tension and suspension of disbelief. I thought I would do all that later.
Well, now is later. Much later. Too late?
I guess I spent the last year rereading my book. I changed a lot, certainly. I am four drafts lighter (heavier). I did plot, I did character motives. I tried for suspension of disbelief. But it took a transformational week at a writing workshop (my first ever) to understand things from a different perspective. Yes, first you have to write a book. Then you have to write a story.
So I made scenes. I was told the following (by the excellent, excellent Steven Galloway):
Each scene must answer
A) What does the character want?
B) What happens if he/she doesn’t get it?
C) Why does it have to happen now?
It was with these simple guidelines that I set about writing an index card for each scene with these responses on the back.
I feel like I wrote a new book. A book that makes sense! Now to implement this new sense into my nonsense, there is the rub.