Thursday, March 23, 2006

Moving forward

I still haven’t changed a word of my YA novel this year. (Well, okay, I did fix one typo.) But…I am still making progress for the first time in ages!

Yesterday I sat down with the manuscript file and stared at the first few pages in confusion for a while. As usual, I had no idea what to do with it or where to start. I decided I needed to understand the point of the book once & for all. I needed to make it really, really clear in my own mind what my character, Lydia, wants, and why. I opened a new document & started making notes.

The more notes I made, the more I understood Lydia. The more I understood that she does have a story, a real story that is actually worth writing. I understood more clearly why the events in the book are a big deal to her, and why she reacts as she does. I finally figured out at least a little more about her relationship with her mother, which isn’t explored much in the current draft. And I understood how people could care about her even when she seems not to care much about anything. I realized to my amazement that this tiny spark of an idea I had, initially just something vague about a girl not liking her neighbor, could grow into something complex that delves into childhood hurts, family relationships, and fragile emotions, and makes statements about life and friendship. Something that has three-dimensional characters I can see and hear and care about. Something I might even be able to be proud of writing! I am excited by all the things I discovered in my story, many of which I didn’t even put there on purpose! It mostly came out of my subconscious, and even after I wrote it, and even after my first critiques, I still didn’t see it all. I still didn’t see where it was going or why it mattered, or if it could matter or not make everyone yawn. And now, after a critique that opened my eyes, I see so much more to it. Stuff I’ve still got to chip away at or build up to show to the reader--but stuff that I now know is waiting to come out!

One good thing is that I realized most of my trouble with this manuscript is chronological. Changing the order in which I tell things, or even the order in which things happen, may fix quite a few of the problems it has now. I'm also mulling over how to make something seem less coincidental. At any rate, I'm thrilled with my new insights into the story. And when I ever get a chunk of time to myself again, I'll see what I can do with it!

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