I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Nearly finished The Breakout Novelist (though, not on the exercises, there are still a lot of those to work through), and now have started to make inroads on Alan Watt’s The 90-Day Novel, which takes a decidedly different approach.
Watt focuses on the intuitive process of writing, and advises to begin as though you haven’t before. This is good advice, except that I do have a semblance of an outline. But that’s okay. I can ignore it for now, while I’m working through Watt’s book. I do, of course, want to have a draft done in 90 days, which is why I got it. His exercises (so far) seem to all instruct that you “write for five minutes.” Does anyone time themselves? This seems counter-intuitive. So, I’ve tried to allow myself to just work for as long as I feel I need to on each exercise.
Where Donald Maass focuses on creating micro-tension, and causing as much trouble as possible for your protagonists (yes, drama is important, but not every book needs to have a character die, does it?), Alan Watt focuses instead on dilemma. Obviously, conflict is at the root of all stories, and necessarily needs to be throughout novels, often in many forms. Both of these gentlemen are focused on the same issue, cast in slightly different lights. I don’t take issue with either approach, but they are certainly described and geared for different types of writers. I’m not certain where I fall within these “types,” and plan to just keep taking as much advice as I can get, to pick and choose what works to get my pen to the paper.
The element I have focused on is growth, as a (pardon the pun) root of much of the story’s conflict and tension. Namely, my protagonist’s growth, and the elements that hinder or help it. Fairly straightforward. Perhaps the reason is the season, as the world around me reawakens from its winter slumber and begins to green up again.
We stopped at the garden center today and stocked up on seeds for this year’s harvest. It’s all very exciting — and quickly becomes overwhelming. Myriad potential varieties of every crop you want to grow are available. It becomes hard to choose what to commit to. This is a pretty natural dilemma, eh? Maybe the most natural of all. I’m not sure where all of it is headed, but I’m figuring out the source from which my novel’s conflict stems (sorry again).
Writing is a growth-promoting process. I’m still just sowing the seeds, and trying to propagate everything my imagination can come up with. Sure, there’ll be dandelions and crab-grasses and probably a handful of other pests in the garden of this novel. But let them flourish, too, for now. The time for weeding is after you already have a bumper crop. One piece of advice everyone seems to agree on is — don’t wear your writer’s hat and your editor’s hat at the same time…your head will overheat.
So, let the creativity bloom!