Or, Where The Hell Have YOU Been, Muse?
As I’ve alluded to in a few posts, I’ve been feeling kind of stuck lately on the stories I’m trying to write. Last night I was doing some number crunching based on my first two novellas, basically looking at their lengths as defined by standard publishing counting formula and whether they would together be long enough to roll into one print-on-demand format for those who like “real” books. The answer was “yes, but.” The two of them together would be novel-length, just a very short novel. It occurred to me that I would only need about 10-15,000 more words to make it a more standard length, so I got to wondering was there any other story I could possibly think of that could take place the same night at the same party and be fairly quick to tell?
The 10,000 word goal intrigued me. I figured, the hell with it, why not try? Whatever I’m working on right now is not holding my interest, so maybe a quick little novelette would help to jumpstart my production again.
The goals for the piece were fairly simple.
- I knew it had to take place (or culminate from a build up that wouldn’t be too annoying to cover as backstory/flashback) in one evening,
- at a masquerade ball,
- with no drama that the entire crowd would have been aware of due to the fact that two other stories have already been written about that night with no mention of any disruptions not caused by Viola and Olivia’s antics.
- I also knew that I wanted it to be a little–or, okay, a lot–sexier than my first two, because neither of the first two have actual sex (that whole not doing it before marriage in most cases thing I have), which my beta readers complained about. I figure if I’m considering writing a third to make a collection then I could give the people what they want with respect to this third couple.
- Given that I wanted these lovers to have sex, and the main story takes place over the course of one night, I knew this was going to be some kind of reunion story rather than a girl meeting a guy and having sex with him on the same night in Regency London.
By the time I woke up this morning, the heroine’s first line of thought was echoing through my mind as if it applied to me, and not to her: Was she really going to go through with this?
Yes, at some point between toying with this idea last night and getting out of bed this morning (following a nice interlude of half-asleep brainstorming, which is always my best time–either right before I fall asleep or right after I wake up), I had developed the storyline and a rough idea of the characters.
So I just said fuck it and started writing.
Five hours and almost 4500 words later I finally ran out of words. For the moment. I can feel my muse hovering again, after a break to walk the dog and cook an early dinner and finally watch the season finale of Treme, so we may end up upping that number before day’s end, my muse and I.
Anyway, it was refreshing to me to have a story I couldn’t stop writing. To have scenes and moments and character development just flowing freely, as if it was already there entrenched in my subconscious and just waiting to be uncovered. And it got me thinking about why I’ve been so stuck on my other stories. Part of it is the length. They will both be in the 40,000 range by my outline projections, which is the upper limit for novellas. They take place over longer periods of time, and do not have characters with feelings or motives already in place to fall in love but characters who have to come to that point over the course of the story. They need more worldbuilding.
And I know what happens but I don’t know the characters.
This revelation came as a surprise to me, too. But I have been trying to put my finger on what’s wrong, and what’s wrong is that while I know the plot of those two stories and why the characters make some of their choices, I don’t know why they actually fall in love. I need to focus on character building, and it’s damned hard to write about events but no emotions, and that, I think, is what has really been holding me back. It’s great to have that cleared up–half of fixing the problem is correctly identifying the problem.
It’s also great that I have something fresh and exciting and inspiring to work on while I go back to pondering those others. Maybe I’ll come back to them, and maybe I’ll just move on to more new stories…we’ll see how I’m feeling 5-10,000 words from now. Because for now I have a Twelfth Night party to go back to.