Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Novelists and Parents- Got to be Stubborn

I'm right at the 60,000 word mark in my 2nd Chancey book. Things are a hot mess. Some of the messes I understand and am on track with - even though my protagonist, Carolina is not. The book is first person so some things I find out as Carolina finds them out. Like with her daughter, Savannah, and her friends. As I told someone the other day, there's something going on with the teenagers, but I don't know what it is yet. There's just those little clues (like real life raising teens) that make you think something's up, but you don't have enough of the pieces yet to figure it out. So you keep asking questions, checking their room, paying attention to every nuance of every conversation - and even then sometimes you never figure it out.
Except this is a novel. And getting answers is a must. At least some answers - story has to be tied up at the end, but the bigger questions which are left are about the reader. That to me defines a deeper book - one that makes me question, ponder, okay - think! That doesn't mean a hard to read book, Michael Creighton's books always make me think. Same with Jan Karon's simple books about Mitford.
But at this point in my book - things are a hot mess. And now to start shedding some light and getting the tangles to unwind themselves a bit.
One cardinal rule of fiction writing is you can't sell it (to an agent or a publisher) until the novel is completed. Why? Because getting your characters in messes is the easy part - getting them out in a satisfying manner, well, that's not easy.
And that's not just in books, it's in life as well. Being stubborn can be a good thing for a novelist because you just will not leave those characters alone until they figure this out. Being stubborn is good for a parent, too.
I remember telling Lizzy one time in a jr. high moment of truth. "You don't understand. I know the truth and you're not telling it and I will not drop this. This is pathological lying. So my next step is for us to talk with the youth pastor, if that doesn't work then we'll talk to the senior pastor and if you're still lying we're going into counseling. So, get this into your head. I will not stop."
So, now my characters are in a hot mess and I'm going to force them to get out of it. They will have to be in uncomfortable situations, speak the truth to friends, and face their deep-set fears. And I'm going to write it all down!
Being a writer - and a parent - is not for the faint-hearted.

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