I was speaking with a friend recently about Life Stuff. As sometimes happens during these types of conversations, we talked about the idea that when a door closes, another one opens. And if there is no other door, we hope we can at least find a window. A few days later, as I was skimming through my WIP, trying to get back in touch with where I’d left off on revisions to deal with Life Stuff, I remembered that conversation and realized that in a sense, the McDaniel writing program and the craft lessons we learned forced all of us to close some doors on our writing of the past.
In some cases, it’s easy to see that this is a good thing. As much as all of us struggle with applying the concept, realizing the importance of giving our characters goals, and positive ones at that, has been an important lesson that many of us circle back to again and again as we revise our WIPs. But other lessons, like treating every scene as a unit of conflict, are at times elusive and at other times just plain intrusive upon the creative process. I’m sure every one of us could point to lessons we learned that have clicked for us and that make us now wonder how we ever wrote without such knowledge. But we could also point to lessons that have become stumbling blocks in our forward progress. Then, to make matters worse, when we try to return to the familiar, the way we used to do things, that doesn’t work either. That door is now closed and deadbolted behind us.
Right now, the problems I’m facing in my WIP deals with subplots. With three protagonists each with their own main storylines, I have subplots upon subplots. The trick is making them all work together, echoing or reversing or complicating the main plot, oh my! There are days when I just want to let my little subplots grow wild and free, not tethered by the demands of that greedy main plot running straight through the center of the story. But I know better now and I just can’t do it. The new, crafty way doesn’t work. The old, undisciplined way is locked behind a steel door.
But life is a journey, and writing is a process, and I am going to get through this tough patch. I’m busily looking for the next door or at least the window I can use as an escape hatch. Some day, I’m going to get this WIP and all its wayward subplots tamed. And then it will be a wondrous thing of beauty. I would call it A Breathtaking Work of Staggering Genius, but Dave Eggers might take issue with that. But the book will be finished, and while it will never be perfect or what I envisioned in my head, some day it will be good enough to see the light of day.
Talk to me about your WIP, and your trials and tribulations and triumphs with it! What doors have closed in your writing as you’ve learned more about craft? What crafty stumbling blocks have you overcome?