Journal Entry

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Story So Far

I'm a bit stuck on the novel I'm writing, Resilience.

It may be a good kind of stuck. At any rate, I'm trying not to panic. I have been just rolling along without a plan, gamboling and makin' stuff up, and I think this is the point at which I go "holy crap WHAT IS GOING ON HERE??" I'm about midway through and I often hit this point midway through longish short stories. (Indeed arguably I've hit it more than once with this novel, and each time figured out just enough to keep me going a bit longer).

So this Tuesday when Aviva and I sat down to write together (she finished a picture book entitled GRUMPY POOP, which is awesome), I couldn't really get any more words down so instead I made this pretty chart which shows the book so far. Each box is a chapter, and each page occupies twenty squares of graph paper.

I sure hope it helps.

Noah was out riding trams with his grandfather at the time. For like three hours. Noah likes riding the tram.

Posted by benrosen at July 9, 2008 06:48 PM | Up to blog

That's a beautiful chart! I think your instinct is right--just keep plowing through the middle. When I got jammed somewhere in the last third of my first novel, I took a couple of days to muddle it out with drawings and random scribbling, then just kept heading for the finish line. You can sort it all out after you have a rough first draft...

Posted by: Eugene at July 9, 2008 11:49 PM

I like the chart. If I step back from the screen, I can picture the yellow boxes as bricks, paving the road to the Emerald City or some such mystical place. Keep up the good work. :-)

Posted by: Steve Nagy at July 9, 2008 11:56 PM


Posted by: Karen at July 10, 2008 12:22 AM

That's a pretty, pretty chart.

Posted by: Jackie M. at July 10, 2008 07:21 PM

When I get stuck in a story (generally non-fiction for the last decade or so) I often stop working on the story and write a letter to my mother about why the story is interesting and where it's going.

I often trick myself into actually figuring out why the story is interesting and where it is going, which not only helps the letter, but lets me finish the story on deadline.

The writing-a-letter bit is my take on a classic journalism trick, where you just think about explaining it to your mother or some other non-expert citizen, specifically to help figure out how to start a story with a classic news lede that has all the most important bits in it up front. (If my mom is an expert in the subject matter at hand, I have to think of someone else to write to.)

I was reading something recently about some famous novelist who got stuck halfway through what would later become a very famous novel. He got confused about why the protagonist was doing something-or-other so he had the protagonist "write about it in his journal," and the journal ended up being the middle third of the novel. Everything flowed smoothly once the protagonist had a chance to get his take on the matter down on paper. (Maybe one of your other correspondents remembers this story anecdote than I do and can remind me who the author is or what the work was.)

If something like that would be too meta to include in Resilience, you could just do the exercise to get things moving and then publish the journal once the novel becomes a hit.

By the way, I am a firm believer that doodles and charts and lists and other puzzle-like "distractions" are all very important tools in any writer's utility belt.


Posted by: Jake at July 10, 2008 09:42 PM

I want to read the red "la la la la" chapter.

Posted by: Steven Klotz at July 11, 2008 07:11 AM
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