The Driving Force

About every other day, I open up my novel manuscript, tinker away on my laptop and try to mold “draft one” into a much better “draft two.”

The rewrite has been slow. On the days I ignore it, I wonder if my refusal to open the file reflects my lack of faith in the story or my lack of faith in my writing.

Some days it’s the story, other days it’s my writing, on a bad day it’s both.

Recently, however, I sat down with my ego and explained in no uncertain terms that finishing the novel can be as rewarding as having it published. Amazing things happen when you let go of expectations. The story starts to flow again. I wrote over 1,400 words today, finished chapter three, and rekindled my love for the characters.

In between rewrites this week, I published a post that I consider an exercise in character development – the main character in my novel, not my personal character (unless you count that chat with my ego as “development”). I also found a great article on character-driven stories versus plot-driven stories, something I understood but needed to see again more clearly.

Elana Johnson breaks down plot versus character in an essay she posted on QueryTracker.net (you can read her post here). She says, “[t]he main focus in a plot-driven novel [is]: get out of danger. Stay alive. Accomplish something.” In a character-driven story, the protagonist – how she sees the world or how her perceptions change – is more important than the action:

“In a character-driven story, the author builds the plot around the character.”

Both character and plot interact, but one of them takes the lead. Elana Johnson ends with several questions to help determine which one the writer puts first. Question number one speaks directly to me:

“What is the force propelling your story from beginning to end? Is it the characters or what they’re going through?”

My answer to that question (the characters) sealed my understanding about the story I am writing. And, I learned that even if my fingers aren’t typing in draft changes, I am still developing the story: every article I read on the craft of writing adds meaning to my work in progress.

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10 responses to “The Driving Force

  1. I’m happy that your revision is working well. I had a beta reader who made a comment that she would like to know more about one of the characters and that sparked revisions that added 11,000 words to my novel. You never know where that needed illumination will come from.

  2. You wrote: “every article I read on the craft of writing adds meaning to my work in progress.” You just gave me a big sigh of relief. Thank you!

  3. I’m so glad something from QT helped you! I agree that finding something that resonates with us as writers is important.
    🙂

  4. Letting go of expectations — words to live by!

    I’m glad you’re feeling rekindled love for your characters and story, it’s a great feeling, so easy to lose but so simple to retrieve (writing without expectations).

  5. I feel her question number one speaks directly to me too.

    I haven’t mastered the art of plot-driven novels yet. I’m still working on character.

    • I have a long way to go on this current mss, but keeping my eye on “character-drive” is helping.

      And, what’s funny, is that the first novel I wrote (back in NaNoWriMo 2008) is more plot-driven. Not to say I’ve mastered that either, but the story just seems to be geared that way.

      When I finish this current WIP, I’d love to go back to the other one and see how that rewrite will unfold — see if I like character first more than plot.

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