The first few days of December are always the calm before the storm. I’ve been inching forward with my WIP; wrestling with my synopsis, which needs to be totally rewritten; working on the edit of my first 50 pages; and thinking some more about how to keep my story alive when the holidays are in full swing.
Last Sunday I put together a list of ways to stay in touch your story on a daily basis – quick tricks that could be squeezed into the most packed schedule. Then, on Thursday, Kay tracked down some productivity insights offered by the prolific film and TV writer-producer-director, Joss Whedon. I’m especially grateful for the tip about the importance of rewarding oneself early and often. 🙂
Yesterday, to my surprise, I added another strand to my holiday week WIP survival plan.
As I mulled over my editing goals I spent some time thinking about what makes a book into a lifelong keeper. What gets its hooks into my brain and buries itself there. Firstly the author’s voice and choices, of course; secondly, my favorites are almost always part of a series, because a great fictional world deserves more than one book. In addition to sharing a hero and heroine’s love story, I become part of the wider community. I care about these people. Individual stories come and go. The community is what supports and often drives the main characters through their adventures. I want to share their lives as they change and grow.
It’s not just me. Check out NPR’s list of the 100 best romance novels of all time, compiled from over 18,000 audience nominations. I’d guesstimate that at least two thirds of the books are part of a series. No matter the subgenre, communities rule – dynasties, families, neighbors, colleagues, cops, comrades-in-arms, gamesters, investors, sports stars, wolves, vampires, angels, demons…
So I decided one of my manuscript revision passes should look beyond my H&H, to ask whether they are part of a fully realized, engaging community. And wondering how best to get my head around that brought me right back to Christmas. If there’s one thing the end of year holidays are about, it’s community. People are super-aware of their connection with others. It’s the time of year when many (most?) people make a special effort to acknowledge and reinforce those links.
As well as connecting with friends and family, my husband and I will step into the world of my mum’s nursing home – the residents and their families old and young, the nurses and carers. We’ll mix with the locals in the pretty market town where mum lives. We’ll immerse ourselves in the quiet, self-contained world of mum’s ex-neighbors and later switch things up to celebrate with the young, cosmopolitan cast of our favorite London restaurant.
There has to be story gold in all of these encounters. To borrow a phrase from Kay’s Joss Whedon post, I don’t want to mine them for content, but I would love to spark off them – to reflect on the power of a close community, and consider how to replicate that in my imagination.
It’s going to be a busy few weeks. I’m still planning to try the writing tricks I listed last Sunday. I’m definitely going to experiment with the reward system advocated by Mr. Whedon 😀 .
But most of all I’m going to enjoy, and watch, and learn, and see if I can pick up an idea or two to make stronger human connections within my fictional world.
What do you think?