Love? Life? Loss? Lust? What’s your story?

December 23, 2012

What will your first completed novel be about?

For novices who are attempting literary, or mainstream fiction the question they are faced with, What can I write about?, is both a starting place and a dilemma.

If you aren’t quite ready, you’ll first probably fall back on creating a veiled version of your own life. There’s nothing wrong with this approach. Writers begin where they need to. Maybe someone said Write what you know, and you took that to mean by default, biography.

I’ve written about this in the post Writing What You Know vs. Using What You Know in Your Writing

So perhaps you’re looking a first draft, some 200 or so pages of your very own life, and thinking:

I have to edit this?

Some of these things I got completely wrong.

It’s awful- can I even use it to revise?

What am I going to do?

Ask yourself a few questions. Do you have an idea of what you want from each scene?
Craft-wise? Arc-wise? Character-wise? Description-wise?

When you work on scenes instead of ‘your personal story’, things are narrowed, and focus down into something the reader can see and experience without all that narration.

Let’s say you had a universal story in mind when you began, and here in this first draft you find this recitation of your very personal, and kind of dull, life. What happened? Did you ‘tell’ it wrong on the page?

One of things I know for absolute sure is that when I am visualizing something I plan to write, I rarely visualize narration.  Not Summary narration, nor Expository narration.

I visualize my storytelling in scenes. Whether I’m planning a plot twist, or writing a crucial moment for my characters, it’s always something I can see – my mind is showing it to me. It’s rarely a voice in my mind ‘telling’ me how things are going to go.

How does this affect your first draft, thinly disguised, bio? When we write biography we tend to stick up for ourselves.  And, that takes narration. A writer talking directly to the reader. Explaining things.  If your time was spent doing too much explaining, you may have missed the chance to be a storyteller. Luckily, editing your first draft for over-narration allows you to bring in more scenes and arcs. And that’s where better storytelling begins. It might even help you find a more solid ‘End of A Story
My story notes are not transcribed from a voice in my mind- they are lists of actions, reactions, and moments of motivations and reactions. They’re concrete moments that I want to bring to the page. No explaining, very little backstory or flashbacks, just things happening. Whether I’m writing about love, life, loss, or lust.
The next time you sit still enough to plan for your rewrite- try allowing yourself no narration, per se. Don’t allow a voice inside you to tell a reader about the story – from a distance of an inner narrator.
Try getting it all down in the re-worked outline, or directly on the new pages ‘in scene’. Try to using stronger, immediate action words; leave out the distance of the was, were, had, and are or am bits of writing.

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