So now I had a premise, and character sketches, and it was time to try to put all those new ideas into a plot. So I spent a week putting together a ten page "outline", then sent it out to my readers, and sat back and waited for the adulation for my creativity to start rolling into my inbox.
To my surprise, one of my readers liked it even less than they'd liked the original story. I was shocked, because this one had all the right elements! There was a villain! And fight scenes! And... that was why they didn't like it. I had written a completely cliche plot.
I fought against the idea in the beginning, but soon realized that they were right. I remembered something OSC (Orson Scott Card) said in his book for the Writer's Digest Series, Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy: that the first idea you come up with is almost always cliched. That was what I'd done- I'd been so eager to get input that I'd written down the first ideas I'd come up with. In fact, when I started looking closer, I could see that my plot echoed every fantasy ever written. All I had done was regurgitate the story structure that I'd been absorbing for years.
It's not a bad story structure, but it's not mine, either. And I want to make it my own. To do this, I'm revising the plot again. It turns out I was confusing the concepts of a synopsis and an outline, and so I'm also trying to keep my outline to no more than two pages, to make it easier to see the story structure and to make corrections.
I started revising almost petulantly, because I really thought I should have gotten it right the first time. But something Lynne Griffin said at The Writer's Group blog really helped me (this post):
When it comes to potential novel problems, I suggest a bring it on philosophy, rather than turn the other way tactic. That's one of the many reasons I treasure my friends at The Writers' Group. In knowledgeable and compassionate ways, they tell me like it is. And I know my work is better as a result.
I want my writing to be the best it can be, and I know that being critqued and challenged honestly is the only way for that to happen.
Labels: story structure encouragement