Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Structure

I'm on track to make the NaNo halfway mark (25,000 words) on Wednesday night, if I continue at this pace. That will, not entirely coincidentally, be the halfway point of the book (although lots of what I've already written needs to be expanded; that can happen later, after November) and the main crisis, which has been building since the prologue, will begin to explode.

My novel is divided into three parts, each of which should eventually be about 25,000 words. Part 1 spans 15 years and has a lot of shorter scenes: bam-bam-bam. The pace slows down, but the crisis picks up significantly in Part 2, which spans 2 months. Part 3 stretches out, is more introspective, and covers about a year.

Part 1 is fun, Part 2 is exciting, and Part 3, which I have not yet begun to write, is supposed to be lyrical and haunting. Ah, well, what's the use of trying, without making lofty goals? If I'm going to be a writer, this is the sort of writer I want to be. Can I carry a story on the merits of the writing, without relying on plot? We'll see by the second or third draft of Part 3. In the meantime:

Writing lesson from book club. The Time Traveler's Wife taught me that people can fuck in contemporary literary fiction. My characters, and my narrator, don't say that; though I think it would be interesting to write in a voice that could, someday. There is sex, though. And hopefully there's a little laughter too.
The undulating women, the thumping music, the pulsing lights, it all screamed sex-sex-sex. Mark closed his eyes and moved to the music, feeling fuzzy around the edges, feeling the beat and the lust in his muscles, in his bones, in the very core of his soul. There was no today, there was no tomorrow, there was no Maggie, there was no Mark, there was only this feeling, this being, right now. He was the beat. He was the music, the lights, the vapor of evaporating sweat steaming off the dancers.

Until someone threw up on his shoe.

7 comments:

Amanda said...

Didn't like the way that one came out. At some point I should try to write a character that would actually say f*ck. Yeah, I can't even write it. That would be one of those scenes I'd write with my eyes closed. :)

Jessica said...

I was completely sucked in by that snippet.

Kristi said...

Are you actually writing sequentially? Interesting. So far, mine covers scenes in various point throughout the story. Mine has emphasis on story, not structure though, different style of writing :) If someone made me start at the beginning and go forward only, I would probably give up in about 5 minutes...

Sarahlynn said...

Thank you, Jessica! I hope to add more feeling scenes like that later, as I'm fleshing out the down-and-dirty NaNoWriMo style writing I'm doing now. That one just came out, and I liked it.

Amanda, re: first comment, in literary fiction, sex often takes place off the page, while being referenced as necessary for the story. That frustrates me: if it's necessary to the story, write it! One thing I loved about The Time Traveler's Wife was that it was literary fiction, really good stuff, award winning, etc. And yet the main characters swore and fucked, in a really very normal and non-offensive way. So very well done.

Kristi, for this story, yes, I'm mainly writing sequentially, though I skip back and forth some. I'm moving in a recognizable trajectory through the novel, but I'm going back to change details or fill in/add scenes sometimes, and skipping ahead to jot down thoughts or bits of dialogue for later scenes as appropriate.

I find that moving in a roughly sequential order helps with my character development; it happens naturally and I don't have to think as carefully about it before each scene, to make sure that the character would be behaving in a particular way at a particular time in his own development.

I definitely write differently outside of the contraints of NaNoWriMo (sprint-style writing). But since I usually write short stories, I'm finding a more methodical approach very helpful to this longer style of work.

I would say, however, that literary fiction is generally character-driven, rather than structurally driven (that sounds more like experimental literature to me, though I'm no expert) and I hope that The Really Good Guy will be a very character-driven sort of work.

Amanda said...

I find that the good romances are character driven and plot driven. The characters are changed by the plot? I prewrite out of order (ie outline, plot, brainstorm), but when I write I'm all about the sequential. Start at the beginning and drive forward.

I find short stories are harder to write. I've taken courses on them, but I never felt that my short stories were any good. Do you think you'll continue to write novel length after this?

Sarahlynn said...

Amanda, I agree: the novels that I enjoy have both good character development and a compelling story.

When I'm talking about what drives a novel, of course it's subjective. But thinking of, say, a Dan Brown novel: what keeps you turning the pages is a need to know what happens next! Whereas with, say, Villette by Charlotte Bronte. That's one of the best novels ever written, in my opinion, and I could not put it down the first time I read it. But if someone asked me what it was about, I'd be hard pressed to say exactly what happened, you know? The main character's development was the story. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villette_(novel)

I would, of course, be thrilled to be able to write like Dan Brown or Charlotte Bronte. But with this particular novel, I'm trying to hit closer to the Bronte part of the spectrum.

On literary fiction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literary_fiction

Sarahlynn said...

For me, if I just sit down to write with a little idea in my head, be it for fiction or nonfiction, about 1000-1500 words come out. That might be a summary of a longer work, or something I can work into a longer work, or it might be a short short (love that form!) or an article for a magazine.

I like longer writing projects; they're just harder for me to start on because I find them intimidating.