It’s the third week of our winter writing group, which means we’re almost finished. All of our writers are making their goals and kicking ass.
Updates and Week Three Goals:
- Anne: I am going to continue with my notetaking from Burroughs and other sources. It is working — I’m getting specific ideas and motivation for my WIP [work in progress]. I’m even having the nerve to say that I have a WIP!
- Laura: I have to repeat my week two goal, since I focused all of my energy on prepping for the first week of school (this is not an excuse). So this week I’ll figure out what motivates my protagonist, and then I’ll start to organize my plot to make her work for it.
- Lisa: This week, my goal is to write five more pages. Woo hoo!
- Matt: I had assigned myself two stories to focus on last week, and I did focus on them, but found that my level of satisfaction with those stories was already fairly high. What was nagging at me was Boring to the Punchline, the second story in the book. Unexpectedly, I had begun to question that story on some fundamental levels, asking myself whether its overall contribution to the narrative was even justified. Throughout the week I was dragged back to it over and over again, writing and rewriting and excising and adjusting balances. I’m still not sure where I stand with it.
Over the next week, my “plan” is to focus on the final two stories in the book (Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Wild Africa! and Hang Gliders, Jet Packs, or Very Tall Stilts: a Jack and Pokie Mystery) but reason tells me to expect a series of returns to the second story as well. I’m not sure what is going to happen, but something about Boring to the Punchline is still demanding my attention and apparently I’m too thick to understand what it needs. [I told Matt that sometimes this takes space and some time away from the story to figure out, which is antithetical to what he feels. Anyone else have other suggestions?]
- Robert: So far I’ve written 3,209 words in the last two weeks. My week 3 weekly goal will be 1750 words again.
I spent some time last week looking over Lisa Cron’s book Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence (I’ve written about Cron’s book before) and I wanted to share some useful bits she writes about that might help us.
In the second chapter, Cron talks about focus, which she describes as “the synthesis of three elements that work in unison to create a story: the protagonist’s issue, the theme, and the plot” (Cron 27).
As Cron continues to talk about putting a plot together, she says that a writer must choose the events that create the most challenging course for the protagonist (28). I found this quite helpful, even though I’m thinking about a detective novel, which, on its face, seems as though it should be focused on the crime alone. But the best crime fiction I read — written by people like Tana French and Sara Gran — makes sure that the protagonist is affected by the crime and the elements of that crime that come up during the course of the case or the story. This connection makes the stories I enjoy most more literary than just a police procedural; they are deeper than just a case file.
Cron writes that “A Story Is About How the Plot Affects the Protagonist” (31), so that is my task for you all this week: ask and answer the question, how is my plot affecting my protagonist? If there’s something in your story — a big something, a major plot point — that’s not, identify how you can adjust it so that it becomes more of challenge to your main character.
Good writing this week, everyone!