Monday, June 21, 2010

Revision Indecision

Revision Indecision

ThelmaLouisejump Well, I powered my way through to the end of Act II of Steam Palace. Here’s the thing. I can plot ‘til the cows come home but as soon as I touch pen to paper (type the first letter) it all goes runs off the road like the car above because my characters are unpredictable. They will do something unexpected, and I’ll go, “well that’s much kewler than what I had plotted…let’s run with it.” Sigh.

In Draft One, I knew what my main character Sophia (called Prudencia back then) wanted. Her family was in chaos, and she figured if she married into a good house, then—like magic—all that would be fixed, so the story was about her drive to become Duchess despite all the crap that she had to endure to achieve this goal. Nice, clean, focused.

Now onto Draft Two. Same beginning, same idea, same goals. Except this new character Viola pops up. And like the proverbial monkey wrench into the gears, Sophia’s lofty goals have been destroyed. Viola’s mean. She’s slutty. She’s psychotically dangerous. And she’s Sophia’s twin sister. What? Suddenly the whole novel has shifted from the story of Sophia restoring her family status to her bond with this woman who represents everything Sophia does not. Yes, I’ll say it and fuck me for writing it: Viola is Sophia’s Evil Twin.

The thing is, Sophia hasn’t changed between drafts. Her real true goal, the restoration of her family, remains intact. The world of my story has changed. Her family is not just her older sister and her mom. It’s now this other person. And then when Sophia finds out she’s adopted (well…stolen), her whole family concept is thrown into chaos. What the hell is her family? Who is she? She cannot become Duchess now. It’s like Draft One was a perfect dream of hers which now lays in ruins.

So what happened? How did I completely ruin a perfectly good plot and now sit here wondering how the fuck am I going to finish this story? Sophia’s association with Viola has completely corrupted her to the point where at the beginning of Act III, they are both on the lam ala Thelma & Louise, running for their lives. Miss Prim and Proper Sophia Stratton…a fugitive. My plot has completely run off the rails. I’ve been sorely tempted to put my foot down and stop writing until my characters behave. I’ve even threatened to end the book right here. But it’s my own fault. I listened to some writing advice about adding “conflict” and “tension” and “fix the sagging middle” to the story, and now it’s an irresolvable mess.

I guess the thing I need to do is figure out what the hell Sophia wants at this point.  She wants some semblance of normality to her life. She has to find a way to make this all right. Her country is about to be invaded by two neighbors fighting for control. Her sister Viola is being hunted for murder (which she did commit), her friend Thomas is suffering the aftereffects of a leg amputation, the Duke wants them dead for messing his plans up, and she herself is wanted for committing terrorist acts (which she did do as well…no “innocent parties” here.). She has to fix all this. Everything she’s grown to care about is being threatened. And it’s kinda her own fault.

And what the hell happened to my Original Idea? That this would be some kind of love triangle story between Sophia, the Duke, and Thomas? She’s thrown all that out because of Viola, and now it’s a buddy story. Poor Thomas, he’s really getting the short end of the stick here. There is a cute scene where he spends a day with Viola convinced she’s Sophia suffering some kind of brain ailment. She tries to tell him she’s not Sophia but he won’t listen. But I digress. Thomas is now relegated to the side, poor guy.

What is this book about? Where is it going? What is the resolution? I have no idea how Sophia’s going to navigate through all this. But the thing is, I will figure all this out, and the result is going to be incredible. At last count I had 25 threads (or story promises) left dangling. I probably can’t close all of them, but I am going to try. And I realize I am going to have to do this before I start edits because I don’t know what’s going to have to change to make the ending work.

Wish me (and Sophia) luck. We’re going to need it. Otherwise I think me and her will be sharing that car up above.


  1. You're on the right track when you talk about figuring out what she wants at this point. When I try to help people with plotting, I also ask them what the character needs and what her major flaw is, so I'll ask you the same. Wants and goals can, and often do, change as the story progresses and the character starts to realize the disconnect between her wants and needs.

    My humble thoughts, on reading the bits and pieces that I have, are that Sophia needs to stop living her life for her family and start living it for herself. Her flaws seem to be naivete and fanatical devotion to her family that borders on the self-destructive. So by the end, I would expect her to be more savvy and more independent, and probably to ditch the concept of marrying for money and either go it alone or get with who she loves.

  2. Thanks, Val, kinda needed to hear that.
    Been having a conversation in my mind with Sophia about what's going on. You're right, it's high time that she started to take the bull by the horns and take charge of the story instead of being buffeted around. She needs to act, not react.
    It's the start of the 4th Quarter (literally, I should be about 75% into the story here) and Sophia's team is down by 20 points. The other team's smelling blood. Her star receiver Thomas is on the bench, injured. Her star running back Viola keeps getting pounded and can barely walk herself. The rest of the team has the look of death in their eyes, and Coach is telling her to quit (or will in a chapter or two).
    It's rally time, not just for Sophia, but for myself as well. I guess I just hand her the ball and let her do her thing.

  3. Hi Andrew,

    It helps just putting everything down and then a the revision, cropping what makes the story confusing or whatever doesn´t work right. So let it roll, when your characters stop guiding you, grab your scisors, put the editing cap and dive in to polish your MS.

    Btw, "Yes, I’ll say it and fuck me for writing it: Viola is Sophia’s Evil Twin." best line ever.

  4. You have some incredible twists with some definite stakes! Keep doing what you did for the first 3/4 of the book and steamroll that last quarter.

    Wrapping up is the easy part. Simply kill off anyone who's giving you trouble.

    - Eric

  5. @Clara: Thanks. I've made numerous posts railing against the Evil Twin meme and now I've adopted it lock, stock, and barrel. I'm prostituting myself for the good of the story.

    @Eric: Kill Them All! Mwahahaha.

  6. BTW, for those who are counting, this is my 300th post. And I'm really close to 200 followers...

  7. I like the twists and turns your plot has taken. It sounds like they've made an okay story line in to a fantastical rollicking good time.

    I'm with Valerie. We never know where life will lead, all we truly know is that when the curve ball's coming at ya, ya gotta get out of the way and do the best you can with the crap. Most good stories are about growing and evolving, right? And, like Eric said, if all else fails, do the Thelma and Louise and kill your kidlies.

    Chin up and muster on, you've got a winner! Olivia

  8. I think that you just keep adding the layers that make your story so interesting and your characters so rivetting. What a hot mess everyone is will change and challenge who they are and that's good reading in my book.

    From the excerpts and interviews you've shared, your characters seem unpredictable and larger than life...their reactions would be just as dynamic, again a good thing.

    I like your idea of Sopphia taking the reigns. If she's of the same mettle as her twin then its in her. It might even impress Viola. Keep at it...its a great adventure so far...see it through!

  9. @Olivia: Thanks. It's a very crazy story.

    @Raquel: Hmm..impress Viola

    BTW as predicted I came up with an explosive climax idea today. Not only that...but it's the climax the book has to have.

  10. When I sat down to write my first novel, Cal was the worst sort of villian. Several hundred thousand re-writes later, he's the love of Amy's life. I think my basic plot is still there, but the characters have totally evolved into people not of my choosing.

    And sometimes, I liked my novel better before I learned how to write.

    You'll figure it out Andrew. I see you're on the right track already by thinking it through, writing your thoughts down. Sometimes a word vomit organizes the issues in your mind.

    List them out, see what your original vision was, and who your characters need to be, and what they need to accomplish. I'll bet your vision and their's will be pretty close in the end.

    Who knows; maybe what you really need is nice long run. Go camping, hiking, enter a marathon. From what I see of you Andrew, you need a grueling, physical work out to organize your thinking. So go run, and think only about how much you're enjoying the physical activity, and the feel of the road under your feet.

    Give yourself a break. You deserve it!


  11. I'm impressed that you can articulate all that. I think you get points for doing so. And, your rundown for us will be uber helpful in getting your story on track. Where ever that may be.

  12. You've won an award for being such an awesome blogger! Come claim it at "Attack of the Muses!!"


  13. Aww, good luck on all those decisions! I always plan things and they go haywire, too, as soon as I start writing. The thing is that if I didn't plan anything I'd never start at all. Sigh. :)

  14. I wish you good luck. And goodspeed. And whatever else may help. I understand and respect your process. You are a better man than I...
    Live long and prosper.

  15. Hello, Andrew. My name is Christine. I am a "pantser." Welcome to the club.

    Pantser: someone incapable of following a plot outline, writing instead 'by the seat of their pants'

  16. @Donna: I wish I could, but I can barely do anything because of tendinitis. :(

    @catwoods: This is not easy

    @Monica: Thanks for the award!

    @Michelle: Planning is good, but doing is better

    @Spock: I thought I'd heard your name before....

    @Christine: I'm not incapable, I just start seeing holes in the outline and sooner or later it falls apart.

  17. Well, I'm incapable of even creating an outline. I don't know what's going to happen until my characters start walking and talking.


Thank you for your contribution to this discussion.