How Time Flies . . .
|Cassidy, Hailey, Riley - c. 2009|
|Cassidy, Hailey, Riley, August 2017|
"Out of the Mist" Oops
Anyone who has been reading Mosaic Moments for a while knows that I am an "out of the mist" author. (Sorry, but I reject the term "pantser" - it's ugly.) If I sit down and create a detailed outline of what I intend to write, the story loses its magic. I know what happens, so the idea of all that work to fill in the remainder is too boring to be contemplated. Forgetaboutit!
But I have to admit that even after 35+ books, it's possible to wander astray. I've always been a linear writer - I start at the beginning and write straight through to the end. But when I hit Regency Gothic #6, The Blackthorne Curse, I came a cropper (as equine-speak goes). Perhaps it was because I was struggling to polish the workshop I would deliver to the BeauMonde Chapter at the RWA conference . . . Perhaps it was simply my time to stumble, but the week before conference, I knew I was mired in a bog as treacherous as the ones in my book. Wanting to move the story forward, I had leaped ahead - straight over the plot and into the brambles. I also learned the Maypole dance I had happily added for "color" would not work because my heroine was still far away in boarding school on the first day of May. Sigh.
I saved Chapters 1-9, complete with Maypole scene, to a thumb drive, then read through hard copy of 9, highlighting the "must keep" sections. The problem seemed to be that I had jumped my heroine from age fifteen to age eighteen with the turn of a page, and as much as I wanted to move the story forward, it simply wasn't working. Which left me re-creating my heroine's sixteenth and seventeenth summers, which necessitated moving letters she received from one year to another and watching like a hawk to keep the continuity correct. Thus, instead of writing in linear mode, I found myself shuffling "mosaic moments," a definite irony for the author of a blog called Grace's Mosaic Moments
This jigsaw challenge was not fully met until after conference - and could not be accomplished without going back and reading the entire book from Chapter 1 to Chapter 8.
What I discovered:
1. The Blackthorne Curse was intriguing, but the level of evil - the scare factor - was not high enough for a heroine who is the only child in a family where the "first-born" is cursed to die before his/her 19th birthday.
2. Every change I made necessitated other changes to avoid continuity problems, distance problems, school schedules, etc. I became not only a creator of intricate mosaics but a juggler as well.
3. I knew, of course, that I would need to add color to my story; that is always true as I go back and edit, but this time the added bits were far more extensive than usual. In particular, I needed to introduce the considerable adder population of Dartmoor. And make more of the terrifying tales told of happenings on the moor. My settings and characters were pretty good, but clothing, plants, animals, not so much. (Yes, I had mentioned some of Dartmoor's tall tales, but not enough.)
4. Also - major oops - I discovered that an important setting I use in the story was not where I thought it was on Dartmoor. [Which would explain why I couldn't find it on my 1" = 1 mile (giant scale) map of the moor!] When Google Earth pinpointed it for me, my eyes popped. Wistman's Wood was close to Princetown? Close to Dartmoor prison? Oh, how I wished I'd known about the" wood" when we stayed overnight in Princetown, lo, these many years ago. (For the purposes of The Blackthorne Curse, I had to settle for photos from Google Earth.) Then again, if I hadn't been forced to slow down, take a breath, and study everything more carefully, I might have completely missed Wistman's Wood's placement in the heart of Dartmoor.
5. Maypole or not to Maypole?
I figured a way to get our heroine home by May 1st, but now the big question: would that dance scene move the story forward? And if not, can I justify it on the basis of "color" alone? I still haven't figured that one out.
6. By the time I was done puzzling and juggling, a good two weeks after the convention, most of Chapter 9 had become Chapter 10, but oh joy! a read-through of Chapters 6-10 seemed to make sense. (I can only hope I didn't leave my heroine too young for too long.)
Summary. Yes, not being a "plotter" can get you into trouble, but this is the first time (and I hope the last) in a quarter century of writing that I've had to suffer this much discombobulation. And, believe me, none of what I suffered was enough to get me to change my method of writing. "Out of the mist" is who and what I am. I embrace it.
Note for Newbies to my Blog: When it comes to style and one's approach to writing, I never say, "My way or the highway." Each person must find his/her own method of getting to those magical words, "The End." My purpose is to reassure those who "wing" their way through manuscripts that it's okay, you don't have to write outlines or detailed summaries before you begin. (In fact—just between you and me and the lamppost—I don't how you can be creative if you've got it all planned out ahead of time.) But if you do get hung up - to borrow a phrase from law enforcement: "Do the crime, spend the time." Fix your tangled mess and move on. Don't leave it 'til the end of the book when the challenge of fixing it may have become overwhelming.
Only time will tell if shoving bits and pieces into different positions in my mosaic worked, but please keep in mind those ancient sayings: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Take the bit in your teeth and run for it! True - you can't mess up if you if you never put words on a page. But you won't make any money with your writing either. You'll never enjoy the thrill of telling a good story. So be daring. Sit down and type. You can fix what doesn't work the first time. Or the second time, or . . . But you can't fix words that never made it to the page.
As always, my advice to authors:
SIT. STAY. PERSEVERE.
For my post, "Organizing the Out-of-the-Mist Author," please see Archives, 7/9/16.
~ * ~Grace note: For an inside look at The Bastard Prince prior to publication, check out the new post on my Facebook Author Page.
For a link to Blair Bancroft's Facebook Author page, click here.
For a link to Pre-order (sale price) of The Bastard Prince, click here.
(The Bastard Prince is Book 3 of the Blue Moon Rising series.)
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