This weekend I spent hours and hours reading for my thesis. I stumbled upon this book called “A Writer Teaches Writing” by Donald M Murray which made me really think about my writing process for my book but also for other stories. He breaks the process down as COLLECT PLAN DRAFT. The thing is, for his process, it’s not linear. It’s not just collect, plan, draft, DONE! It’s a revolving cycle until the final draft–meaning revision is just a rehash of the process. He refers to editing basically how I referred to correcting.
What does this mean? I’m re-thinking the Abassi Expedition. I’ve collected, planned, and drafted and now as I look at it–it doesn’t feel right. Something, mostly a fire, is missing from it for me. I think that I need some more collect, another plan, and another draft.
So, I’m probably going to collect my thoughts–break the draft down into the issues that I’m having, which for me, is primarily Alice and William at the end of the book. Morris grew into the most perfect character for me, save for maybe one or two scenes that feel forced. But Alice and William? They were planned before they were collected. So I’m back on the collect. I really want to better understand who they are, their backgrounds, how they’ll act as life comes at them. I had planned to be done with the Abassi Expedition by fall but honestly, I don’t know if that will happen.
After I collect, I’ll plan… I have legitimate scenarios for Alice and William to experience but I don’t think I have the right responses and actions on their part. So I might re-plan the rising and falling action. I like the climax, I like the end.
Then I’ll draft and when I do, I might use some old scenes but I also plan to use some techniques in that book like writing my lead over and over again in the different options (direct statement, anecdote, quotation news, informing detail, dialogue, surprise, description, mood, face, scene, first person, third person, tension, problem, process, voice, second person, rhetorical question, background, introduction) with a focus on honesty, simplicity, immediacy, information, and voice.
I think it’s time for me to accept and be okay that my first draft is a discovery draft and it helped me to discover what I need to know, what I need to explore, what was left out. I have that draft off to my good friend Sabrina right now, so we’ll see what she says.
Another thing I’d like to do is to answer all the questions Murray gives that are more directed for non-fictional writing but still carry meaning to me:
- Do I have enough specific, accurate information to build a piece of writing that will satisfy the reader?
- Do I see an order in the material that will deliver information to the readers when they need it?
- DO I hear a voice that is strong enough to speak directly to the reader?
- What do I know about my story?
- What do I need to know?
- Do I need to expand or narrow my scope?
- Will my reader’s questions get answered?
Murray also gives some great ideas about keeping the writing going such as setting a quota and keeping score, writing in parts instead of focusing on the whole, don’t stop to look at notes.
Before I start any of that, I need to figure out what is working well in my draft. My prose is good, concise, to the point, active, but my characters aren’t working for me the way they should. They’re not in the story enough. This plot is driven by the characters and the story needs to reflect that.
To really assess my work, I need to read it thrice (YES THRICE!) for content, structure, and language. Lately, I’ve been reading, instead, for language. That’s just not working for me. Because I can fix the prose but if the content isn’t right, that means nothing!
SO, now where am I? Well, I’m mired in the collect for my thesis. So the Abassi Expedition will have to wait a few months (hopefully just until March) before I can really delve into it’s collect. But I have a few books that I’ve recommended but never *fully* read, I’m going to link them AGAIN and finally read them this time! Cover to cover!
- Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time by Jordan E. Rosenfeld
- Word Hero: A Fiendishly Clever Guide to Crafting the Lines that Get Laughs, Go Viral, and Live Forever by Jay Heinrichs
- Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction by Jeff Gerke
- How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card
- New to my list: On Writing by Stephen King
- New to my list: 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias
If I can work these into my thesis, I may, but until then, I’m stuck reading books and articles about writers teaching writing (if you know any, pass them on!).