April 19, 2018 by Julia
I’ve been trying to think of a plot for a second novel since Jack started Kindergarten last fall, about a year and a half ago now, and it’s just not happening. I’ve had two main story ideas that I get about halfway through, and then don’t know where to go with them. The story has nowhere to go. I start out with hope, in love with ideas, in love with characters, in love with messages and themes, and then I realize: oh crap, I don’t have a plot. And although literature is more my aim than genre, I’m not quite so high-minded that I have any desire to write a plot-less book.
So, I give up!
No more novel writing for me.
I’ll just send out my first, already-written novel to another forty-seven agents, and then I’ll send it to six more, and then I’ll have finally arrived at my give-up-at-that-point goal of sending it to one hundred agents, and then I can give up on that, too.
HA! Just joking! Or could you not tell? I’m not taking my quitting seriously, and I’m not taking my dreams seriously, and I’m not taking my writing seriously, and OH God I’m crying now.
Dear God, can I just steal an old story that everyone already knows, and write that? Like Cinderella. Cinderella never gets old. It’s got a terrible villain, it’s got a makeover, it’s a dream come true, true love, magic…what’s not to love? I could update it. Sure, I hate that updated fairytale show Once Upon A Time, but I wouldn’t be throwing everything but the kitchen sink in, like they do. I’d focus. I’d have discretion.
Why do I like literary stuff so much? Why did I have to read James Agee’s A Death in the Family as a teen and feel that it changed my life? Why do I have to be such a snob? Why I can’t I just write a crappy novel and be done with it? It’s not like I have an established audience to disappoint. The first novel would have to have been published, for that, heh-heh!! I literally have nothing to lose but self-respect, and if I don’t write another damn novel, I won’t have that, either. But if I write a crappy novel, I won’t have self-respect, either. If I want to be on decent terms with myself, my only choice is to write a good novel.
That’s all! No big deal. Just write a good novel.
Maybe I don’t have to…? HA! Says my soul. My soul thinks that’s the funniest thing it’s heard yet.
I am aware that the first draft of anything is usually crap. But I need a plot before I can write the crappy first draft. And I can’t make myself invest in a crappy first draft when I know it’s window dressing for a crappy plot. I get this nauseating feeling that the bones must be good before they are worth fleshing out. Maybe I can trick my brain into thinking I have good bones, so I can write the crappy first draft, and then go back and change the crappy bones that I tricked myself into thinking were decent, when they weren’t. Only, my brain is too smart to be fooled into thinking I am writing toward something good when I am not, actually. This I suppose is a gift. A wonderful, wonderful gift! Wait – I do it all the time. I wrestle with crappy ideas and give up on them. Where was I? I am here, writing out the crap.
I am destined to write a good novel – no, not just to have written a good novel, but to be writing a good novel at all times – and as we all know, there’s no hiding from one’s destiny. That causes severe itchiness of the soul, which I imagine can also lead to restless-leg syndrome.
Is it a good sign when I’m plotting out scenes, trying to create a realistic but easy-to-hate antagonist, and suddenly I think, oh – he could be a literal demon, and you won’t even know it until you’re at least halfway through the book? In the moment, I think this is the most brilliant thing I’ve thought of – magic, out of nowhere, when you least expect it, as a reader! – and then when I read this idea the next day, I suspect I have lost my mind, and for the following scene, Scene 21, I write: I GIVE UP.
Ooh, that could be so meta. Is meta the right word? The author gives up, and the whole novel goes off the rails, into a rollercoaster of self-doubt and confusion! Wow. Deep.
I GIVE UP, I GIVE UP, I GIVE UP.
If I say it enough times the catharsis will set in, and I can move on, and keep writing, right?