Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Capturing the Magic: 2 Questions You Must Answer About Your WIP

As some of you may know (since you commit all Jaime trivia to your long-term memory, right?) I took a kick-butt, 5 month writing course which has taken me over a year to complete. It's Holly Lisle's "How to Revise Your Novel" and it has been eye-opening in about a hundred ways.

In the course you take a completed book (like my 2009 NaNo train wreck) and go through a grueling, step-by-step revision process where you spend the first 8 lessons (in theory, one lesson a week) dissecting your book so you know exactly what doesn't work and why. This was excruciatingly difficult, because by the end you are ready to burn the thing because it obviously is complete trash. BUT, it is one of the best things I've ever done with my writing. And it's also not the subject of today's post. (Soon, my young padowans, soon.)

The very first thing this course had you do, before you rip your own work to shreds, is to answer some questions. The two I want to focus on are:

1) What was the idea that made you want to write your story in the first place?
What was that magical, shiny idea that struck you while you were driving/eating/showering/chasing kids/watching TV/etc. that made you stop and go, "Oooo! I want to write that!"

My answer: The idea of a boy in a family of villains who wasn't any good at being bad. A villain coming-of-age story.

2) What was the story you originally wanted to tell?
Not your plot outline, but what made you start and keep going on this particular story? How did you envision it before you hit the sagging middle and got sidetracked by that one walk on character that hijacked your story?

My answer: I wanted it to be funny, but have some resonating truth in it because all kids (and even adults) struggle to live up to expectations. I was going for a "Shrek," spoof-y feel with characters you really like. I wanted to take classic villains kids could identify and twist them in entertaining ways.

My answers may not seem that earth-shattering to you, but by writing this down, I was able to recapture the magic that made me start writing this book. Now as I get close to finishing an almost total rewrite, it is exciting to know exactly what I wanted and see how I'm finally getting it. (And yes, I'm a little misty-eyed even right now thinking about it.)

I will now do this at the beginning of every book, so that I make sure I stay faithful to the magic that first motivated me.

Something magical made you start working on a particular story--a nebulous combination of character, concept, and emotion that ached for the words to live and breathe and share with others. Remember it. Find it again. Write it down so you don't lose it.

Then go make it happen.


Shanda said...

Great advice. Thank you. I need to write this down where I can see it.

Shanda :)

Christine Fonseca said...

Love this - yes, yes and YES

Jolene Perry said...

Wow. My stories NEVER end up being what I start with. EVER, NEVER. I start with a speck of an idea and the characters come. As soon as the characters come, the story comes, usually part of that first idea is there, but not often...

Elena Solodow said...

The one question I always continue to ask myself is:


As long as you can keep providing an answer, you're all set.

Valerie Ipson said...

Excellent! I know the answers to the two questions, but I shalt write them down.