Posted in Editing, Fourth Russian novel, Rewriting, Writing

IWSG—A miraculous flash of seeing everything clearly

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

It’s time again for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which meets the first Wednesday of every month to commiserate over worries, fears, doubts, and struggles.

This month’s question is:

When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

While we should be aware of current literary conventions and trends, someone who aspires to be a writer for all time should ultimately be true to one’s own voice, style, and interests. Even if you’re writing in a popular genre, like paranormal romance, you should at least use an original angle that makes your story stand out instead of obediently fitting into a mindless cookie cutter. Why be one of a million when you can be one in a million?

I set a 15K goal for July Camp NaNo and overachieved, though the majority of my writing was creative non-fiction for blog posts, not the actual declared project, my radical rewrite of The Very Last. I suspect I didn’t write as much as I could for TVL because I wasn’t starting it as an entirely new project or writing only new chapters.

Towards the end of July, I began reconsidering what I thought was a rejected storyline for Dream Deferred, the Konevs relocating back to NYC en masse in June 1952. I last seriously worked on it in March 2020, and the most recent chapter, still unfinished, was begun on 28 July 2020 and not updated since 28 October 2020. Lockdown ruined what seemed to finally be the homestretch.

And just when I was almost decided on resurrecting the aborted storyline that bloated the already sprawling wordcount and made me lose control of my own book, the most perfect development came to me. It’s so perfect, I had to look for reasons to possibly reject it. After all, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice!

What if the Konevs had chosen Minneapolis instead of St. Paul when they moved to the Twin Cities? That makes more sense, since it’s the location of the university, and it’s more likely a progressive academy like Stefania Wolicka would be there. Also, Minneapolis has always had more population and been more vibrant and cosmopolitan than St. Paul.

Anton, the second husband of Lyuba and Ivan’s goddaughter Lyudmila, will alert them to an old mansion next to his on East River Road that just came on the market. In that era, Victorian houses were often abandoned or sold for very cheap prices on account of being so unfashionable.

With Tatyana’s family buying the house next to that by surprise, there’ll be more than enough land for dear horse Branimir to enjoy his autumn years. There’s also ample land for hobby farming, gardening, and keeping some non-working farm animals.

On the same block will be the girls’ new friends from school, who won’t have to be introduced at the very end of the book.

Kabardin horse (Branimir’s breed), Copyright Helgie12 at WikiCommons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

In preparation for striking while the iron’s hot and refreshing my familiarity with the story, I began skimming through it. After almost two years away, I’d forgotten many things—little details, major plot points, seeds being planted for developments in future books.

To my great surprise, the only major issue is the aborted moving back to New York storyline. The overall story wasn’t nearly as trainwreck as I thought it was. Even the major subplots that arise in the final quarter or so are on-point and so entwined with the pre-existing storylines, it would be a mistake to move them into the fifth book. Only a few need moving or junking.

As the real-life Father Andrew Rogosh of St. Michael’s Russian Catholic Church (pictured above) says to Ivan’s much-younger sister Varya:

“….When one boils dilemmas down to their core essence instead of obsessing over a succession of minute details, the easiest solution often appears quickly.”

Have you ever found an epiphanous solution after it seemed you’d written yourself into an impossible corner? Discovered a story wasn’t nearly as trainwreck as you thought it was after some time away?

Author:

Writer of historical fiction sagas and series, with elements of women's fiction, romance, and Bildungsroman. Born in the wrong generation on several fronts.

6 thoughts on “IWSG—A miraculous flash of seeing everything clearly

  1. Write for yourself, for you will have to live your WIP for a long time, right? “What If” can lead us into possibilities that will surprise us … as when I asked myself “what if my hero fell in love and married a villainess?”

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  2. so great to visit you today! and sounds like you are doing great — I don’t know how you are able to write so many words and include so much information weaving your wonderful stories!
    and your advice to write from an original angle is spot on
    good to see you!

    Tara Tyler Talks

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  3. Reading Rebecca Birch and her fellow educationalist Jeannette gave me a particular reflection on the August question.

    That is the point of responding to an audience or the need for an audience.

    Jeannette’s students wrote “Hello, my name is” as an opening sentence.

    [as they had done for most of their work – probably excepting the National Assessments in Literacy and Numeracy].

    The task was the narrative of a person on a boat.

    With the opening sentence, experienced writers would orient the audience [reader].

    And then I thought of another educator and the whole topic/supporting sentence.

    This educator works with kindergarten and 1st-grade students. Teenagers and adults will also find the approaches helpful.

    I did not learn to construct a paragraph until quite late in my writerly life – and I will admit I did pay some attention to how other people constructed theirs.

    Chomsky’s *minimal input* [one of my avocations would be linguistics and transformational grammar].

    There are so many ways to be original as a writer.

    Two ways from my own life:

    Both are a few months apart in 1997.

    One was an experimental fiction I wrote called TRUE BELIEVERS.

    It was when I was learning to play and love language again after some depressive moments [and, yes, more than moments].

    TRUE BELIEVERS did plant some seeds which germinated in about a year or two when I was about to become much more radical in my worldview and approach.

    The other was DARIUS’S STORY which came from an existing universe – a universe that had a pre-existing audience.

    DARIUS felt like a tightrope – and there was so much self-exposure and so much self-disclosure.

    Only partly due to it being a first-person narrative.

    The protagonist and viewpoint person is a Bosniak who came to the Home Counties of England [specifically Whistable; Kent] when he was 5 during the early days of the Bosnian War when his sister died and his brothers were fighting.

    The frame was a magazine piece: specifically the mode of a profile interview.

    [of the type you might read in VANITY FAIR at the hairdressers’ or NEW YORKER – and it was made before Longreads became mainstream – so that would be Darius’s home]

    As DARIUS evolved through August and September 1997 into January and April 1998 it became a Bildungsroman of its type – pushing boundaries and edges through sensory impressions and social and emotional expressions.

    Carrie-Anne – being a writer for all time has been a leitmotif for you.

    I, on the other hand, am very much a writer of my time.

    Or a time that I make myself – influences have included French classicism [unity of place – time – situation: particularly again the dramatic context].

    And at that time there were influences like MY FAIR LADY the musical.

    I put DARIUS to the public test in April 2001 through a message board which was emerging as a source of critique. Lots of great post-colonials and literary fiction people who were creating and honing their voices and styles.

    And in late 2003 I turned DARIUS’S STORY into a play.

    So many “impossible” and sometimes im*passible* corners – and some of them are because I consciously or subconsciously decide NOT to pass [through that particular obstacle].

    The third quarter of 1997 was when I was invited to a Literature masterclass a few points past my paygrade.

    I used my new skills in rhetoric and composition.

    I remember in particular constructing a drama or monologue from the CHOCOLATE WAR; making another monologue with A PACK OF LIES by British playwright Hugh Whitemore and catching up with THE HOBBIT through puppet theatre. I had tried the HOBBIT first in late 1993 through one of the Unwin editions.

    And the HOBBIT is a text to be enjoyed with friends – Tolkien is indeed “a writer for all time” [or for all seasons as Robert Bolt said of Thomas More – a saint].

    Exploring Helen Kroger as a refugee and asylum seeker [and espionage executor] was an epiphanious moment. Especially at the time and the place that I did – the last fortnight of November 1997.

    Oh my goodness – it was a seismic shift…

    And I do remember the sentence/bombshell which started it all.

    Our facilitator had avocational connections to community and amateur drama through participation in a theatre.

    [Some background: since late January/early February 1996 I had been very gung-ho to make my own musical and in March 1996 I expressed my desires and intentions – she was also my History mentor].

    There is Know your Place [the condenscending, patronising way] and then KNOWING YOUR place.

    As for the epiphany: I aspire to one or more any and every time I write.

    [and I can indeed identify them for each work I have made – and how they stand against my previous, current and future efforts].

    I used to be very very positivist – if I work at it long enough and if I struggle/suffer enough.

    [and yet there are aspects of that approach which are anathema / which go against the grain like a mouse eating grain in a silo or indeed like Branimir bolting and spooking every time he sees a shining skyscraper].

    #ProbablyNotPlausibleEquineBehaviour

    Again with respect to drama and theatre: and scripts and plays – each audience is so different – it is important to have a consistent vision [as the commenter immediately above me has pointed out with admiration – I’ve looked and liked your stuff before Damayanti]. It is important, too, to have a collaborative and coherent vision.

    [the same thing with poetry and short stories].

    You want your technique to be very supple and substantive and subtle – and that can get through any amount of technical flaws.

    Birch said she had been spoilt by teaching these formally capable writers – those who had had little incentive to improve their writing or set goals and get into processes and habits beyond academic instruction and social desires.

    ***

    Carrie-Anne – very excited about the Minneapolis experimentation/exploration.

    I can see and feel what you intend to do – and its potential impact.

    Rogosh – he really gets it.

    Rxena: So true for living with your WorksinProgress for a long time.

    I think like Queen Elizabeth the Second when it comes to that.

    “My time, be it long or be it short, I will do my duty” is what she said during her Coronation and/or her birthday in the first half of the 1950s.

    I have spent time talking about the duties and the rights of a writer: to themselves; to the forms; to the past – present – future; to the material; to the audiences.

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