Heyo! Welcome to today’s Monday Muse. Let’s get into it.
This year for NaNoWriMo, I started a project that began several months ago with a dream. It was just a couple of scenes from what was expanded to include ley lines, an entire magical AND scientific system called Metageophysics, elements of Brigadoon and Jane Eyre, and a character who insisted she was named Scheherazade but settled for Henrietta if I let her go by Hedy. (And boy did that argument take up weeks.)
I got my 50k done, but was never satisfied with what I was writing. It’s at once bloated and doesn’t begin to cover enough, barely manages to capture the depth of the adoration and devotion Hedy has toward Joel, and gets nothing of the small town politics of Leyton (which I worked SO HARD to research and plan, dammit) so important to the novel. For every word I know I have to cut, I have to add at least one, and there’s a couple of POVs I need to add, too. All in all, this novel is going to end up being somewhere in the 200k range, arguably a bit long for what amounts to a fantasy-light romance.
So, I was thinking… what if the story I’d always thought was meant to be a novel isn’t, in fact, meant to be one, at all? What if there’s another way this story was meant to be told? I mean, I did dream it, didn’t I? Dreams are a visual of sorts. And a camera can be used to show small town politics without devoting a bunch of time to it, letting it linger with a few visual clues playing in the background while the plot moves on. A couple of scenes here and there. No POV limitations to worry about without having to write in omniscient voice (which I very much dislike). More time to show Hedy learning how to manipulate ley energy, become a Meta, do experiments to learn what will save Leyton, etc.
So much more I can do. But also… less. Because I won’t be able to get into Hedy’s head the way I would in a novel. Or Joel’s, whose devastation in part two is very carefully hidden from everyone. Or, hell, even Bobbie’s, whose POV needs to be added because actions she takes and never shares are super important to the novel.
It’s a hard choice. But the mark of a good writer of any salt is being willing to change, to put the story first. I don’t know which way I’ll go — it’s a decision I’ve been pondering for a while now, to the point that I’ve started working on something else while I let the choice percolate away in the back of my head — but I do know it’ll be the right decision when I make it. One list of pros outweighs the other; I just don’t know which one it is, yet. And my story will come into the world the way it’s meant to be.
So, I guess that’s the point of this Muse. Tell your story the way it’s meant to be told. Don’t force it into a shape and keep pounding at it until it fits. And if something feels wrong about it, take the time to figure out what it is before you keep going in the wrong direction. Far too many people believe writing is just putting words on paper and editing them, and that’s just not true. Sometimes writing is thinking, pondering, planning… listening to what your story (and by extension, your brain) is trying to tell you.
Trust me, your story will end up being better if you listen.