Follow Your Instincts

Listening to: The New Amsterdams, “Wait”

Okay, I was going to complain about the weather, what with the winter storm just passed and the one to come, but then I saw a tweet that all five seasons of Daria will be released on DVD in May of this year, and I don’t have the wherewithal to complain anymore. I mean, how could I complain about anything now? I’ve been waiting for this forever. I mean, all the years I wished it was back on tv, and knew the DVDs were nowhere in existence and that all I could access of Daria’s dry, bitter humor were a few movie-like episodes–well, all those years I felt like this:

Grrr! Give me my Daria!

Then I finally read this news, and I’m all like…okay, you know there are no images of “Happy Daria” anywhere, right? I don’t even know why I looked. So…just pretend.

Okay, to get to the actual point of this blog post. I know, I know–how could all five seasons of Daria on DVD NOT be the point? It’s the point of everything today. But I’ll have to move on, because there’s writing to be done. Specifically, the newest WIP.

It’s killing me.

I tweeted last week that, every time I get to 20 or 30k in a manuscript, I get this ridiculous urge to start over. Normally, I indulge myself for a few pages, realize that what I currently have is better, and keep plowing through.

It’s not working this time.

I just feel like what I have (about 22k words) is just not right. It has its moments, sure, but the characters are really bugging me. They’re not acting in any sort of realistic manner, and the harder I try to keep them in line, the worse they get. I realize that characters frequently go against the author’s wishes or plans, and that’s one of the really fun parts of writing–how my brain surprises the hell out of me.  But in this case, they’re not just going against my plans. They’re going against reality. They’re acting SO WEIRD, you guys.  And I think it’s stretching the bounds of believability. I’ve started the novel over twice now, because I’ll go and see where I left off with the first one and just hate it. I know I write contemporary fantasy, so, you know, there’s gonna be some stuff in there that isn’t realistic in the truest sense of the world, and I love that. But the characters still have to act like human beings–I mean, provided that they are human beings. And they are human, but they’re not acting like it, so this has to stop.

The best advice I ever got for writing, in three short words from my editor at the paper back in the day, was “Follow your instincts.” Of course, it’s more than that. Since my instincts push me to start fresh at this point every single time, and that’s never been necessary, I have to assume my instincts were pushing me for different reasons. Fear of the middle, fear that I screwed up the beginning, a desire to recapture the magic of starting a new project. But when I examine my instincts while reading what I currently have, I know something’s different this time. I have a concrete reason–characters not behaving believably. While that’s something you can fix in revision, it’s a BIG fix, since everything the characters do and think affects every aspect of the plot–and if they’re not behaving right, that means the entire plot needs to be revamped, too. Start to finish. God, I’m feeling sick just thinking about it!

I’m going to plow ahead with Attempt #3 today, and just see where it goes. Already I like it more, and the characters seem more real, even though I’m only a few pages in. There’s a lot of good material in Attempt #1, so I might pull whole scenes from that and it’ll speed up my progress. Just as long as I can keep the characters from acting like complete morons.

*Glares at characters* Wish me luck, guys.

5 thoughts on “Follow Your Instincts

  1. This is my digital piss on your virtual tree marking my territory! I love the website! More to come later- digitally peeing really takes it out of you…. no pun intended!

  2. Good luck! I run into problems at about 25K as well. That’s the point at which I can determine whether or not I have enough material for an actual novel. In the past four years, I’ve written five novels up to 25K and I’ve only finished two of them. Two have been shelved for now (one probably permanently) and I’m pushing on with the third.

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