A friend pointed out to me recently that it’s been quite a while since I last mentioned anything about POTS (y’know, that huge novel I was in the process of editing…), which is a fair observation, because I really haven’t said much about POTS lately. Nor have I really been working on it either…
Sigh. I mean, on the bright side, I have been working a little bit on other stories, mostly short stories or short series, so it’s not like I’ve not been writing anything. I just haven’t been writing the one thing I should be writing.
Ohhhh POTS. What am I to do with you?
I think last time I talked about it I’d just “finished” the third draft, or something like that? I can’t even remember anymore. But I realized when I finished that draft and considered moving on to the next one that I was feeling really discouraged by the whole thing.
It feels like, with that draft, I didn’t do very much to improve the story. It feels like, if anything, I might have strayed farther from what I want it to be.
Which is unbelievably frustrating, but not very surprising, given my track record.
I mean, when I first started editing POTS, I had no clue what I was doing. I naively thought that I would be able to just edit as I went through–that most of my problems, I suppose, would just be scenes that needed tweaking or holes that needed a little bit of filling. But that very quickly proved to be mind-numbingly asinine, because trying to fix the beginning of the novel without addressing the issues at the end of the novel really really reaaaaaally does not work.
But I still didn’t really know how to do that, how to rework the entire plot and keep the big picture in mind while also going scene-by-scene to put things in order. So I just kinda winged it as I went along, hoping I was getting closer to the story I wanted while also kind of realizing I was not doing that.
I have realized through a few NaNoWriMos that I tend to have the brain of a pantser (making up the story by the seat of my pants) but I write a much better story if I approach it like a planner. When I’m actually writing the story, I tend to just get into a flow and go with whatever’s coming to mind, which often results in me writing myself into a wall or writing in scenes that are terrible and completely sidetrack the plot (straight off the road and right into the ditch, woo). Things that seem like a great idea while I’m writing them out are often not as good of an idea when I’m reading them back later. If I plan the story before I start writing though, I tend to have much less of this sidetracking and come out with a much more reasonable story.
So clearly that’s the best thing for me to do, to look at the story as a whole and plan out what I need it to be, what needs to happen, and what I need to change. But it’s been terribly difficult for me to do that, and I’m trying to figure out what exactly is going wrong.
I mean, I know roughly what’s going to happen. Bad thing happens > protagonist is taken to other world > joins group of weary adventurers > travels point A to point B to point C > gets in a fight at point 1 and point 2 and point 3 > reaches the final destination > last big battle of the novel. It’s quite simple, really, like most adventuring stories are, and that of course isn’t the problem. It’s all the Whys and Hows that are the problem.
Why does she get sent to the other world? Why does the bad guy want to do bad things? Why do they need to go to their destination? How is the bad guy going to achieve his evil goals? How is everyone going to get from point A to point C? How is the final battle going to play out?
Why is the protagonist here? How is she going to react to all of this?
And it’s the technical parts where I’m really struggling. I can’t make my plot work, I can’t even figure out what I want my plot to be, and it pretty much feels like a big old soggy mess that I can’t for the life of me sift through.
Sooooo naturally, I’ve been avoiding it.
Which isn’t a permanent solution, I know, but it’s been admittedly nice to write short stories that aren’t as confusing and technical.
But of course, POTS is still my baby, and recently I’ve really missed writing it, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to approach it, to actually make it into the story I believe it can be.
And honestly? I’ve been allowing myself to question everything.
I mean everything.
If you think about it, I’ve been working on POTS for about 6 years now. Some of those years took place in high school, some of them took place in university–arguably a very big transitioning point in one’s life. And if you look back to the very original version of POTS, it’s actually a story I wrote when I was in seventh grade, which was about 8 years ago. Clearly, the story has followed me through some pretty big milestones in my life.
It’s only natural, therefore, that my writing style and ability would have changed in the time since POTS was first created. My ability to write, my ability to craft stories and develop meaningful characters, is a hell of a lot better now than it was back then. And who I am as a person, the things I think are important and the things I’ve learned about the world? Astoundingly different from when I started.
On one hand, it’s really cool to look at this story and see elements of my younger vision mixed with elements of my more mature insight. It’s like a scrapbook showcasing my development as both person and writer, and I think it’s what makes POTS such a special story to me.
On the other hand, it’s pretty clear that the story I wrote 6 years ago isn’t quite going to match up with the story I want to write now. I can see now where I’ve made mistakes, where I’ve lacked depth, where I’ve fallen short of the full potential in a scene or character. I can see now where things can be improved, and I can see new ways of bringing life and spirit to the story.
Which is actually quite possibly where I’m tripping myself up.
I’m trying to weave these two very distinct stories together, the young one and the more mature one, and I’m finding that the original plot that I had just doesn’t really work with my current goals. The message I wanted to convey with the story when I first started writing it was much simpler than the one I want to convey now, and I really can’t convey it well if I’m trying to use the same plot I started out with.
Basically: the reason I’m struggling to figure out the plot is because it’s just not working anymore.
I mean, I don’t think I have to throw the whole thing away, but I think I really need to take it in a new direction. And I think the best way to approach the story is to start from the ground up.
Which is what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve been re-establishing my characters (who are they, what do they want), re-designing my world (what’s the current state of affairs, what’s the biggest challenge), and I’ve been re-working my plot (what kind of story do I want to tell, what’s going to happen to get my message across).
It feels nice, in a way, to be able to look at everything again, to give myself this metaphorical Play Dough that I have the freedom to shape into whatever I’d like. What if this character wanted something different? What if the bad guy actually did this instead? What if the protagonist made this decision here and changed the outcome?
It’s made it easier for me to work on POTS because I don’t have all this pressure to make it better, to make things work. I can just play around with things, scrap things or add them in, and I don’t have to worry if it’s an improvement of what came before it–all that matters is that I’m creating something that feels true, that feels important, and feels reflective of what I wanted when I first started writing this story 6 years ago.
It feels an awful lot like creative freedom, and I’m loving it.
I’m hoping that this story that’s grown up with me over the years will blossom into something beautiful.
And heck, I’m hoping I’ll do the same.