So, I can’t get my 16-year-old to BRING HIS CLEAN LAUNDRY UP TO HIS ROOM!!!! But he is very good at helping me talk through plot holes and inconsistencies in my science fiction mystery. Especially for a 16-year-old (but, then again, he’s not your average 16-year-old). Seriously…he’s as good as people I’ve been critiquing with for years (and I’m not just saying that because I’m his mom…or because I know he reads this blog…it’s true!).
The other night, after he’d read one of my whinings about “the DREADED science fiction mystery,” he asked me…hmm, now I don’t remember what he asked…all I remember was he was the one who initiated the conversation (after he’d read something in my blog). And we got to talking about all the things that aren’t working in the story. We sort of broke it down to the bare bones. Then we went back to the very beginning and discarded all the “rules” and “conditions” I’ve set up for this situation, and we started talking through the story as though it was brand new and completely unwritten.
I started seeing the story differently when we did that. I know what I WANT to do with this story. I know what the kids I’m reading it to are responding to and what they’re not responding to. But I didn’t really have any sense of how I was going to make this story come together. My plan was to simply get to the end (since I started reading it to this class of kids, I can’t NOT get to the end!), then put it away for a while until I figure it all out. I’m really anxious to work on this other project for my Albert Whitman editor anyway. But after that talk with my son, I have NEW DIRECTION! (The funny thing is it’s not that far off from what I was originally going to do with this book…but the same 16-year-old convinced me that what I wanted to do back then was a bad idea…and it WAS a bad idea then…but THIS way, this plan just might work…)
This is a very different way for me to write a novel. Usually, I have a VERY solid idea of where things are going when I start. It’s just a matter of getting the words down. It’s not that I don’t normally revise…I revise A LOT. But usually it’s as I’m going along. I’ve never had the experience of writing a complete draft, knowing my next draft is going to be very different. But I’m doing it this way because I’m reading it to this class. If I’d known going in that this story was going to need to go in such a different direction from where I started, I’m not sure I would’ve chosen this story to workshop with the kids. On the other hand, if I DIDN’T have this commitment to go into school every week, I would’ve shelved this project at about chapter 12 (when I started to get confused). I never would’ve pushed through my frustration. Which means I probably wouldn’t have started thinking in new directions yet.
I’m still going to delve into the book for Albert Whitman when I finish this draft (which will be VERY soon!), but now that I know where I’m going, I’m anxious to start on this revision, too (much as I want to, I just can’t work on more than one novel at a time!). This project is not “the DREADED science fiction mystery” anymore! It’s now the “science fiction mystery that JUST MAY COME TOGETHER!” (In fact, I am, right now, visualizing myself holding a copy of the published I AM ANNA WINKLER!!! I wonder how far into the future that visualization is coming from???)