Or, Overthinking is bad, mmkay?
As I have alluded to before, I have several projects simmering on the stovetop of my imagination. A couple of them are stories I know will be novels. I have been stewing on one, in particular, for a long time—since I decided I was going to try my hand at writing romance long, specifically. Over the time since I first conceived of the characters and their situation, I have written and re-written “important” scenes in order to accommodate different visions of the story. Some of these “take two” scenes were written because I just had a different line of argument or dialogue between the characters pop into my head; others are in my notes file because I decided the previous version did not follow “logically” from what had gone before.
When I went back through my notes file to find my next story to write, I also had this novel catch my imagination again. What I have found, in fact, is that I’m coming back to the original manifestation of these scenes and these moments rather than the versions I wrote after deciding the originals didn’t quite fit. Or, to use the Dude’s terminology, I have been going back to the original rather than the “compromised second draft.”
What I think I’ve realized is that I am an instinctive writer. Where I run into problems is when I’m overthinking the links between these events that my imagination has constructed easily. Those moments represent the heart of the characters and the conflicts between them–that’s why they came so easily.
The trouble comes when I try to force them into a pattern or an order that is developed from conscious plotting rather than a natural storytelling progression. Human emotion and behavior is not necessarily logical. If I’m trying to fit it all into a nice tidy little plot bundle, but doing so forces me to compromise the points of view of my characters, then no wonder I don’t want to work on it anymore. It’s all wrong. Or, at least, wrong enough to prevent the imagination from free-flowing.
I think I was also overcomplicating the developing story by trying to put too much into it. I haven’t looked at this story on the macro scale since well before I decided to self-pub digitally. So my view from above on how long the story needs to be and how complicated and melodramatic has changed pretty substantially from where it was when I set this novel aside. From my perspective now, all a story needs to be is what it naturally is–I have freed my writing from the impositions of form based in the physicality of a novel and the constraints of traditional publishing. There doesn’t have to be a subplot. There can be fewer moments if I make more of the ones I have. If I’m not trying to write to someone else’s suggested word count, then I can let my characters tell me their story. And what they’re telling me, and that I have only recently begun to hear, is “stop overthinking.”