Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What We Can't See

With the lovely momentum of having just finished a good first full draft of Annika Riz, Math Whiz, I have been turning my attention to the third and final book in the proposed series, Izzy Barr, Running Star. For the last couple of weeks, I've been taking my clipboard, pad of paper, favorite pen, and mug of Swiss Miss hot chocolate every morning to the lounge chair on my little deck and spending a pleasant hour moodling possible ideas. I wrote them all up into a one-page synopsis, which I shared with my writing group last night, glad that I had such a good start already on book three.

The only problem with my synopsis was that my writing group hated it. No, that isn't fair. They were encouraging, and positive, and saw many appealing features to the story I had planned. But they also saw egregious problems with my proposed storyline, problem that were glaringly obvious to me as well once they had pointed them out.

I'm too embarrassed to tell you exactly what that now-rejected story line was going to be, so let me just say that I committed both of these beginner-level mistakes:

1. One of the main story lines didn't involve a problem for Izzy at all, but a problem for one of her friends.

2. The other main story line, which focused on Izzy's own problem, was resolved not through Izzy taking steps to solve her own problem but through having her problem solved for her by others.

Oh, and I also had low stakes, and missed opportunities for dramatic tension, and unconvincing motivations for my characters.

How could this be? Izzy Barr, Running Star is not my first book. In fact, it's my FIFTY-first book.  How can I still be making mistakes that I'd spot immediately in a student, or mentee, or fellow critique group member?

The answer is that we simply have a blind spot when it comes to our own stories, or at least I do. I don't know why this is. Sometimes in my head I just SEE the story playing out in this (flawed) way. It starts to feel to me as if this is how the events "really" transpired. But of course a story is something we make up. And other people can be needed to help us see how to make it up better.

I spent this morning doing just that: making it up better. I love my plan for the book now. I've emailed the new plan to my writing group, and so far three of them have emailed back to say they love it, too.
Beloved critique group, now even more beloved, thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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