I know all about setting personal goals and targets and making resolutions, but I’d never heard of this particular variant until recently. It seems particularly appropriate for a writer, so I decided to give it a go.
I already have a goal for 2014 – it’s concrete, specific and measurable (Finish The Damn Book) – so my first thought was to choose a word to support that goal. Finish. Write. Rewrite. Revise. Persevere. There’s merit in that approach, but I decided my Word of the Year should be intangible, bigger than my goal, not subsidiary to it. Closer to a theme, defined as ‘an idea that recurs and pervades.’
I tried some pretty grandiose efforts before settling on something super-simple. In the end, it chose itself. My word for 2014 is …
I have a long list of things I want to fix with my re-write, but most of it comes back to the same problem. I persistently under-cook things. My story needs more conflict. More tension. More emotion. More action/bodies in motion. The story idea is there, and the characters, and the shape, but it’s as though I’m painting a lovely restrained pastel watercolor when I want to be Van Gogh – all strong colors and slashing brush-strokes. I suspect part of my problem is overcoming the self-restraint that comes from a lifetime of business writing. I’m working on it. As Jenny kept reminding us at McDaniel, and now I keep reminding myself, it’s a process.
As I’m re-writing, I’m consciously trying for more. I can’t truthfully say I’m succeeding – I’m spinning my wheels this weekend because the three key scenes I wrote last week are a pale imitation of what they should be. There’s a lot at stake for these characters, so why are they standing around making polite conversation? Talking heads. Meh. These scenes are crucial – they set protagonist irrevocably against antagonist to the bitter end and show exactly why the hero and heroine belong together, improbable as it may seem – and if I do nothing else next week, I’m going to give them some oomph. My plan for Monday is to try to surprise myself – to come up with a list of the biggest, zowiest, most OTT way these scenes could possibly play out, and then take it from there.
Aiming for more has already given me better ideas for most of the scenes I’ve just rewritten. I’ve got notes in square brackets all over the new version of my manuscript, which could be depressing, but feels like a breakthrough. If I just wanted to finish the damn book, I could have done it last year. I want to love the damn book when it’s finished, and I’m finally starting to feel I have a shot at it.
Do you have a word for 2014? Care to share 🙂?