Hey, everybody! K. A. Parker here with your promised monthly update.
Last month, I talked about going big creatively and why that’s important. For this post, I’m going to be backtracking and talking about reaching out a bit, but I’m also going to be talking about reaching in and digging deeper.
Last July, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo and won. Then, the beginning of August, I went through the draft again with my lovely critique partner’s comments and chats in mind and made two incredible discoveries: I was telling the story the wrong way, and I learn way better talking about stuff with others than being by myself.
First, the story. My critique partner made me see that my novel’s plot wasn’t the problem, but rather how I was telling it. If I just went from point A to point B in chronological order, it would make sense, but a lot of the same plot points and elements would repeat and make it feel repetitive and boring to the reader. But if I switch the events around, I’ll build the suspense and make things less choppy in a good way. All those scenes lumped together with eating, training, or talking will feel a lot more natural now that there’s a greater thread pulling the events together.
Second, talking about stuff. For the longest time, I thought I was a solitary learner. I thought that I learned best by reading a bunch of self-help books and writing. Nope! Not the case at all. Clearly. I mean, given the fact that I’d barely touch the books after I read them, something was wrong with my initial theory. And that’s when I realized that all my major story breakthroughs came about when I talked with other people. “Ban red. Go weird.” Writing and Cookies.
How did I start the process to reach these two conclusions, you ask? I dug deeper.
After revising my novel, I started asking my main characters what their motivations were–particularly the antagonist. During the draft, I had the protagonist ask them point blank, and as the writer, I sat back and listened. I let my subconscious do the calculations for me rather than my logical, calculation-activist brain.
Which was hard. I’m a very logic-oriented writer. I like my plots and characters to make sense. But sometimes, I get blindspots that my critique partners kindly point out to me (and for which I am eternally grateful for). In regards to real life, I’ve had to sit back and listen as well. I had to realize that all the self-help books I was reading made only a dent in my head instead of the larger impact I was seeking. Reading them was still good for me, but it wasn’t doing what I thought they were supposed to be doing.
What they were supposed to be doing, I think, was what I might have been taught in school: Read, regurgitate, repeat. Except I didn’t have school or students to work with. I just had me and a book (and a blog, but–you get my point). I needed to actually move my mouth and make the sounds and concepts familiar to me a on a physical level.
You guys, even my high school AP World teacher knew this about me. When I was getting anxious about exams, she told me to talk it out with other people because she thought that I was the kind fo student that learned best that way. I both simultaneously love and hate when memories like that come back to haunt me, but that’s exactly what the memories are for. They remind you what’s important.
But, yes. To reiterate, I dig deeper by letting go of the shovel for a little bit. Counterintuitive, but it works. You and me are pre-packaged individuals. We came with all the equipment we need. We just have to learn and remember how we naturally work. And if we do, I bet that 99% of our problems with ourselves will be solved.
Funny how stuff works like that.