I thought I'd start my OA posting history with where I am right now in my writing life. My first novel is due to be released into the wild this November, and for now, it is in the hands of an editor. So I got organized and developed a fantastic idea for a shiny new project (something to keep me busy while I wait).
All of my characters showed up the first day, each dutifully carrying note cards with character traits and arcs and a very clear outline of my expectations. And after the first 1,500 words, they got up and left.
Hello!? I need this first draft by the end of February! My goal seems completely reasonable, and I know I can write awesome first drafts—I've got one simmering as proof! What's going on here?
Let's call my characters Team A and Team B. Team A has been around for years. They check in at all hours of the day and night, and I can count on them being ready to go at 5am, when I write best. They'll do anything I ask, and I don't argue when they say I'm wrong. Heck, even when I'm pretty sure what they want will be nothing more than a "candy bar" scene, I'm always willing to let them have a little fun. They've earned it!
Team B? They have no clue what's going on. Sometimes I think they sleep in 'til 3pm. Don't they know I'm long-gone by then, picking up the kids from school? Sheesh! And their eagerness to correct me all the time is not helping this first draft, it's putting a screeching halt to it.
So, I came to the creative conclusion that this issue is not about my skills as a writer (thank goodness). It's about the relationship I have with this new set of characters. They don't know me, I don't know them. I assumed they'd have the same work ethic as Team A, because, you know, I'm the author! I am not going to change what I've been doing successfully for years and years. Am I?
So, Team B and I got together for a pow-wow session and here's what I learned:
1. Where Team A was love-at-first-sight, Team B is more like an arranged marriage. We're going to have to get to know each other before we can expect to make anyone truly happy.
2. Team B is tired of being compared to Team A.
3. Team B doesn't reject my overall plan, but they don't trust me with the details.
4. With every wrong assumption I make in this first draft, they lose respect and motivation to participate. (Apparently, I've been wrong quite often)
5. They want more freedom and I'm not trusting them to stick to the plan. (Yeah, that's true.)
6. They don't like acoustic guitar, nor do they like silence. They want upbeat dance music during writing sessions (ugh).
7. Relaxing candle scents make the two youngest characters gag.
8. They don't care if my work space is organized, and get annoyed by the unnecessary delay if I take a moment to put things away. So basically, if I'm not ready when they are, they're not going to be ready when I am, just to make their rebellious point. (This one makes me mad—total lack of respect.)
9. They like chaos and crowds of people. If I can't find them when I need them, they will NOT be waiting in the orchard next to the river for a private pep-talk. They will be at the mall with their friends, one in the arcade, the other in the food court, texting her best friend who's sitting at the same table.
But the most important thing I learned from this WiP time-out, is that I'm trying to write this first draft as if it was a final draft, wasting precious time guessing at details I can't possibly know yet. The point of this draft is to test the overall plot and get to know the characters, to see how much stress each one can handle. Because nothing is set in stone at this point—not my writing routine, the PoV, personality traits, voice... not even the main character.
I never thought I'd say the characters aren't important, but maybe Team B should play elsewhere while I work out these first draft details—that way I can test some ideas without being ridiculed to death. (I swear they're worse than the "internal editor". SO dang picky.)
Right now, my only goal is to write the bones. I'll be more than happy to let the characters add heart, soul, and flesh to the story on the very first round of editing, after I've gotten to know them on a more personal level. I might even let them add a few scenes as incentive if they'll agree to keep quiet for now.
Anyone else having first draft issues, where everything is an obstacle and there's no love or motivation to make it work?
And here's a funny thing... this quote found its way to me today. "We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action," Frank Tibolt
As of this moment, I would reply with, "But action seems so pointless when there's no inspiration."
Fake it 'til you make it?