When the Foundation Won’t Settle

I’ve always been one of those writers who has trouble with beginnings. Whether I have a fantastic grip on most of the story or a story that coalesces as I write it, I will inevitably change or rewrite the beginning five or six times. Starting in the wrong place with the wrong character POV has become something of an art form in most of my completed manuscripts. It’s a personal handicap, but one I’m working to overcome with more projects and more time.

Lately I’ve been having the same problem with an especially nasty twist. Not only am I incapable of finding the right beginning for the story I’d decided would be my next WIP, I’m not even sure that I’m currently telling the story I’d like to tell. In my Double Rebel post, I mentioned Amnesia Conspiracy, which was the working title for the manuscript I hoped to add to during NaNoWriMo. I was super excited about getting back to those characters and that story once my FACING THE MUSIC rewrite was finished. But even though phase one went according to plan and I walked away at the end of November with a completed manuscript, this was also the first year ever that I haven’t won in the 50k, one month, sense.

In fact, I added almost no words to Amnesia Conspiracy over the last half of November available to me. The writing that had seemed so easy back in September had become a mindless, uncaring, oh-God-my-protagonist-has-no-voice sort of slog. And that still wasn’t among the largest of my problems. You want to know what was?

Letting that story sit for almost two months only reinforced the opinions I’d had when I’d started it.

The manuscript that is still loosely dubbed Amnesia Conspiracy stemmed from a tangled web of different ideas. Secrecy, small town crime, mistrust among families, intense romantic relationships, perceptions of mental illness and a whole host of other things. All of those are ideas, in their most generic sense, are fantastic foundations on which to start a story. But I could not find a way to weave them into one cohesive narrative for the life of me.

The first time I tried writing Amnesia Conspiracy was late summer–August, I think. I got two chapters in with two different protagonists, and both voices were so CLEAR to me that I was instantly hooked. Except there wasn’t any plot. I had these really strong, polar opposite female characters, and absolutely nothing to do with them.

Incarnation number two was the one I hoped to continue in November. This time I had a plot I loved, one I thought might stretch itself through two books, which was both exciting and terrifying. But all that fantastic plotting came completely at the expense of real characters and not cardboard cut-outs. Truth be told, I’m not even sure the plotting itself was that fantastic because the way I’d set up the narrative left me bogged down in a bunch of useless non-action that no one in their right mind was going to care about.

Because NaNo was happening, and I’d finished the WIP that I knew well, and the pressure to make word count was higher than ever, I tried so hard to come up with ways to unstick this story and get it going again. Unfortunately, the answer I kept coming back to was that I couldn’t. Not right now, anyway. Not without time and that percolating that interesting ideas do from the back of your brain, waiting for the perfect moment to spring to life. Right now I have a lovely, solid idea foundation, and absolutely no idea what the house that’s supposed to sit atop it looks like. Or really, if I’m supposed to be building a house in the first place.

So where does that leave me? In the process of plotting something else, currently. I’m taking a bunch of notes this time to make up for the minimal plotting that I’d done on Amnesia Conspiracy. Jotting down ideas on paper, where I can safely veto the terrible things with a black pen while still leaving them visible, has been working for me really well so far.

Maybe, if progress is still happening in the next couple weeks, I’ll have more of an update ready for you all.

 

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