Over my year and a half since I’ve started writing novels, I have come to realize I’m relatively good at thinking out premises. On the flip-side, I have also realized I’m bad at choosing a story for that premise; which translates at me being bad at middles and, even worse, at endings.
Last week I listened to an episode of Writing Excuses (awesome podcast, you should check it out), where they were talking about stories generated with ideas –a.k.a. What if…?. In the episode, they mention that it is really hard to have a good story until you are able to connect the big idea with a real character living in that world. I realized I commit this writing sin –if you want to think of it this way– this past Tuesday as I worked on the first draft of a short story .
As I finished the draft, I noticed it lacked for a lot of things. An important one, was that it lacked a good middle and ending. Just exactly the same problem I’ve been struggling with in one of the novels I have been working on for this past year and a half. Thinking back on the episode, I realized that I’m doing what they were talking about: I fall in love with the premise, but I don’t stop to develop the character affected by the premise. Because I’m not really thinking about the character, after putting the story into place (the beginning), I keep running out of steam and the middle results complicated and uninteresting, making it harder to get to a satisfying ending.
Although it pains me to say this, I have decided to trash the novel I have been working on for the longest. It doesn’t mean I’m trashing the idea, only the 100,000 + words I’ve written about it. It’s time to go back to the blank page and think about the character, more than the idea that sparked the novel. Only when I have a character I’m interested to write about in the context of my idea, I’ll sit down and start writing the novel again. From scratch.
I’m committed to publish quality, not quantity. That fact doesn’t make the pain of trashing so many words go away, but I do know that I have improved a lot in my writing just by sitting down and writing those words. It’s time to start thinking about people, and let the idea rest in the background. For now…