Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Narrative Structure and Novels vs. Short Stories

I've been stuck at around chapter three on two different novels for about a month now (okay, maybe just three weeks.) This is just frustrating.

I certainly don't have writer's block, I've been producing plenty of short stories. It's just the novels that I'm bogged down on.

Key question - why? These are both interesting projects. One is YA (ish) horror/adventure, the other is torchpunk fantasy. Both have cool characters, some original (ish) ideas, interesting settings, and so on. One has an outline, the other I have been discovery writing.

So, no obvious culprits there. I just can't seem to get excited about them anymore. I don't know where I'm going with either of them. Even the outlined book, I still just don't feel like I have my fingers on a narrative thread.

I mostly do discovery when I write shorts, sometimes with just a starting scene, sometimes with a bit of an outline. I almost never stick to what I start with though, adding in newer and better ideas as they present themselves. This doesn't seem to work for me for novels, though.

My characters don't seem real enough, the narrative is twisting, the third chapters are drifting far from alignment with the first. So what to do?

I am going to try another idea, a different work-flow. Instead of my short story methodology, I am going to do a much more complete outline, a lot of background, full character studies, and then plot scene by scene. If each scene is essentially a short story, and I can think of each scene, when complete, as the same accomplishment-wise as a short story, I think that will help me get through learning the longer form.

I'm figuring on some combination of three act structure, seven point structure a la Dan Wells, or even the eight point screenwriter's structure. Or all at once. Whatever works, however the book shapes up.

But it is clear to me that I need to build a framework first, before I try to hang drywall, to mix metaphors.

Also, the new book is an easier concept, easier setting, and so on. As easy as I can make it. It is crucial that I complete a novel, just like it was crucial when I wrote my first story that I completed that. have to prove to myself that I can do it. Even if it's not the best book ever. As long as it's coherent, and complete.

Don't worry, though, about the unfinished books. I hate leaving things unfinished. Once I have a success (as in, a completed book), I'll go back to them, with a better idea of how to proceed, I hope.

I'll let you know how it's going in a few weeks.

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