I’ve been struggling to get going on my novel. Quelle surprise.
I’ve mind-mapped the characters. I fall asleep every night thinking about the characters. But I can’t figure out exactly what their conflicts are, or why my antagonist does what he does. I don’t have a sense of my story’s arc and I feel like I can’t start writing. I’m circling around them, chasing them, but I’m miles behind. Meanwhile, I’m not writing. I’m stalled.
Until this morning.
Last week I signed up for a newsletter from the Nelson Literary Agency. They have a great blog and if I ever have a manuscript, I’ll definitely be sending it their way. One of their authors, Janice Hardy, writes a great blog called The Other Side of the Story about the techniques and craft of writing, and I’ve been devouring her posts. She has a post about adding a new twist to an old plot, and one of her tips is to try a new location for a well-known story.
I’m standing there, toothbrush buzzing away, reading her post on my iPad and I realize… I’ve got it! I know how to get myself un-stalled!
One of my favorite TV shows is HBO’s Deadwood (you bastards, damned you for canceling it!). It has a lot of similarities to my novel. Western mining town. Late 19th century. The transition from lawlessness to order. Everyone trying to get rich, but really only a few that do. Characters you love to hate, and hate to love.
So, I think… Why don’t I reset Deadwood somewhere else; a new location and a new time in history. I can use the same characters with their trademark personalities and flaws and the same general themes. I don’t have to worry about plotting it out or figuring out character arcs, because screen writers much smarter than I have already done that. I can just get down to writing. My assumption is that this will just be “practice”. That through writing this story, I’ll be putting words to paper, learning what my writing flaws are, how to craft scenes and dialogue, how to show versus tell and all that important writing “stuff”. This story will probably go nowhere, and I won’t be writing it with the intent of making it my “debut”. It will just be my platform to practice.
I thought I had to say goodbye to Swearingen, Bullock, Ellsworth, Alma, Trixie, Joanie, Jane, Doc Cochran, E.B, Charlie, Dan, Johnny, Silas, Jewel, and Wu. Ah, what a cast. I get warm and fuzzy just typing their names… my old friends. But now, I get to take them forward. Reinvent them in a new time and place and hang out with them all for a while longer. Screw you, HBO.