Things Get Strange When You’re Writing

There are times when I’m working on the Sue Allen piece when I wonder about an MFA. Not because I necessarily want one. I don’t want to end up writing things that feel too workshopped or too un-stranged. But because the more I write this first draft the more I am daunted about the second. I feel like I’m going to need some real help not just beta reading–though I have always been lucky to have great beta readers–but I’m not sure I know how to flip the thing over and make sure all the working parts are in order, that things are paced right, that minor characters aren’t just brought on stage, given their lines, and hurried off again.

Maybe I’m still not sure this is even a first draft. It may just be tens of thousands of words of notes.

So, take for instance, last night. In my outline, it’s basically “Sue goes to get the Widow’s mother and brings her to the Widow. The Widow then gives Sue the information she needs to remove the curse and the Widow and her mother go north.” But already, Sue isn’t alone and I’m not sure she’s really cursed. Her sister, Sarah, is with her. And then, weirdly, when they get to where the Widow’s mother lives, she’s waiting for them. So, they head back to Nashville and run into the proto-Klan (it still being the middle of ’65). Not in my outline. They want the Widow’s mother. Not in my outline. And so Sue has to scare them off. Not in my outline. And she does in a way that ends up tying in nicely with the scene I’ll get to next, where the Widow and her mother are reunited, and that also plays nicely off her first encounter with Lee Overton, when he tries to show her how to switch from seeing ghosts to commanding them. Not in my outline.

So, that’s great. It’s some good stuff, I think. And my writing should be a lot more fleshed out than my outline. But these are some major scenes and some major thematic doohickeys just inserting themselves into the text. So, I feel like I’m not really going to know what’s in the book until this draft/thingy is done. Then I can go back and make sure it all sits in there how it should.

But it’s weird. Maybe there’s always the story you think you’re going to tell and the story you end up telling.

3 thoughts on “Things Get Strange When You’re Writing

  1. Yeah, but according to Wikipedia, they had their official organizational meeting in December and these yahoos are running around in the summer, plus in the daylight. So they’re still at the point of getting their evil schtick down.

    And then Forrest joins them in ’67, right?

  2. I always find–and everyone I’ve ever talked to at Writers’ gatherings–that you sit down with a general plan but the story eventually has a way of pulling you along into the way it really happened. In that it’s not unlike having children. You’ve hopes and dreams for them and they undoubtedly carry your DNA but ultimately they become their own things.

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