Monday, July 5, 2010

Work On A New Old Story

I love my new life as a writer. Every day I'm hyper and happy. Especially when I get a lot done.

It's not always easy, and it does require discipline. The routine is starting to form, which helps.

I finished reading and marking up the ghost/vampire novella and it's a piece of crap. That's not to say it can't be salvaged, but it's going to be a lot more work than it's worth right now. Ghost/Vampire will avoid the trash bin, but it will also avoid the light of day.

Instead, I've picked up a much bigger piece. It's my longest "finished" piece, at 27,000 words, still within the range of novella. For lack of a title, I will call it "SA" for a now, since that's the name of the villain.

SA is a supernatural thriller/horror story about Sandy and Jina, two college girls who are lured into a creepy old house. The summer I wrote it, I was 22, a single mom, unemployed, and had just gotten an associates degree. I had just had a near-nervous breakdown after months on intense stress that culminated in finals and being laid off all in the same day. My stress level was so high that I had experienced several hallucinations over a few weeks. I labeled it "psychic attack", since that's exactly what it felt like: Like some intelligence was deliberately attacking my life and my mind.

I was watching a lot of MTV back then, back when they still played music videos. One had completely taken over my psyche, and inspired by that, the story forced me to write it. The feeling of being watched didn't fully end until I finished writing the story, 6 weeks after starting it.

My writer's group gave me very good advice. Everyone loved the first half. Gripping. Well-written. Good character development.

The second half, not so much. They rightly criticized its downward spiral. All good stories should have ups and downs, but this reaches a point where it's nothing but down. Something good should happen to my poor characters from time to time to give a sense of struggle.

That was the summer of 1997. Re-reading it after 13 years has left me with the same impression.

Fixing the plot on 16,000 words of a 27,000 word story is no easy task. But that's what I've been doing for the past week.

I started by heavily marking up the manuscript. Then I searched for writers tools. My main criteria was something that would let me break my story into small sections so I could get a good idea of the pacing and plot points. After trying a number of free and shareware tools, I settled on yWriter by Spacejock Software. It's free (requested donation) and written by a writer. (It's not as good as Scrivener, but that's Mac-only and I don't have a Mac.) I like that it saves the document sections as .rtf files, and that it tracks Characters, Locations, and Items as well as Chapters and Scenes.

I put all the scenes and sub-scenes into yWriter, and added notes about where I can lift the plot. I've given the villain a few weaknesses and some rules he has to follow. Oh, and I've made him a fairy. That's right. An evil fairy. It fits well with the existing story, since I think my subconscious was hinting at that. I just have to spell it out.

It's interesting that I'm tackling this story given the emotional intensity surrounding its writing. I've always felt that each writer puts a piece of themselves in every story. The characters, settings, and plot, much like a dream, are reflecting something about the writer's mind -- even if that part lies in the deepest recesses of their mind.

My recent therapy this year has often had me thinking back to this story. There is a lot of repressed darkness in this tale, and I think it holds some clues for me.

Here's to you, Carl Jung!

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