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:~: Wednesday, March 28, 2007 :~:

I'm In Trouble Again

Periodically, I wander off on some tangent, like a child who's playing in the garden and catches sight of a pretty flower in the distance and wanders into the woods.

It all started when I got stuck in my WIP, Dead Man's Hand. My characters decided to take hold of the story and next thing I know, the three of us are sitting at Cold Stone having ice cream.

How could that possibly move the story forward, add conflict, deepen character? For God's sake, give me something to work with here guys!

Evidently, I can hear them, but they can't hear me.

So I used the situation as a little sequel to a prior tense moment and then added sexual tension--we are...er, I mean they are...eating ice cream after all, right?

But then found myself stuck again. What next? Nothing seemed to flow. I felt like I needed something significant to happen at that point in the story, yet not sure what that something was, which sparked a random thought in my brain--maybe I'm missing a step in the journey.

That's when I pulled out Christopher Vogler's book, The Writer's Journey.

I attempted to read this book twice before, but I couldn't get through it. In fact, I couldn't even wrap my mind around what Vogler was trying to say enough to give me a slippery grasp. In hindsight, I believe I had preconceived ideas about what the book would cover and when I found it was something different, my mind rejected it.

This time, I absorbed the lessons and messages with ease and relative clarity. Seriously, this book was in my To-Give-Away pile. But there are some powerful messages in there that resounded with me, and I believe its a book I'll refer back to often in the future.

Now I realize that while my story isn't missing a pivotal point, I am at a stage where I'm building toward the step of crossing of the First Threshold, which is why I'm sensitive to the depth of tension and strength of conflict. We need all that in place in order to justify/motivate the characters to step over that threshold.

And as I read deeper into the archetypes and their roles and the three act structure and the way the journey blends with that structure and how that structure builds a stronger story...I get taken away. My brain floats off to previous chapters and later chapters that I can now see need so much more depth and plot shifts and twists and...jeez, everything.

I've found a shiny shell, and now I'm going to stay at the beach all day long looking for more.

Do you find yourself following tangents? Are they craft-related? Do you revise when you've found a way to deepen your work, or do you just move on to the next project and apply the new technique there? Have you read or used the Writer's (Hero's) Journey? If yes, what do you think of it?



Blogger Edie said...

I've read The Writer's Journey and remember loving it, but that was long ago. I recently reread Donald Maass's WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK, when I was revising my last book. That was a huge help.

I got stuck on my beginning yesterday, and now I'm switching things around and seeing if that works better. The beginning has to be just right.

I know you'll think of something just right for your book too.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I've read the Writer's Journey and I got a lot out of it. Like Edie, for hands on practical help, I think Writing the Breakout Novel is better though.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Hi Edie and Michelle,

YES! I read Maass's TBN as well -- the workbook. I've photocopied the worksheets to use with my novels to keep me on track. VERY helpful.

Seems learning anything new and valuable kicks my writing time off-line. I poured over my characters emotions after I took Margie's Empowering Characters Emotions. Then spent hours and days and weeks and months combing through my ms after taking her Deep EDITS course.

So much valuable information out there!

Glad to see I'm not the only craft-hound around.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

I have The Writer's Journey sitting on my shelf. I've tried to read it several times but haven't gotten very far. You're inspiring me to pick it up. Perhaps when I'm on vacation next month I'll pack it in the suitcase.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Hmmm, I'm not sure it's a vacation read. :-) But I know what you mean...I've had it for about a year. I've heard other authors mention it, even rave about it. I never saw the appeal. In fact, I never even got past what I thought was the bore-factor.

Now, I think what I saw as the bore-factor was simply the fact that I wasn't at a stage to understand the message.

Even now I find myself reading the same passage over and over trying to get deeper into it.

I also believe that this is a book you need to read with a particular, well thought out or finished manuscript in mind. This isn't a concept you can grasp without applying it.

At least not IMHUO.

9:20 PM  
Blogger Elisa said...

I haven't read a lot of craft books, but I've added these ones to my TBB list.

I tend to revise as I learn, so if I have an old wip lying around, I'll break it out and make some revisions to it in between projects. Actually, I find that can be a learning experience, too. A month ago I was revising something I'd written in 2004, and I not only saw mistakes I'd made, but a few things I'd done right at the time--and have since stopped doing. I think it's helped me get back into the swing of things.

11:28 AM  

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