Thursday, March 22, 2012

Learning Your Story

I have a book that has driven me crazy for a while now. I realize it’s just like my new skill, I recently learned to crochet.

Okay one is made of fuzzy yarn and the other is made up of characters and an evolving plot. But they start out the same way, as a thought or idea. The loop of yarn becomes a chain, words become sentences, then several rows or a paragraph. Wha'la you've got a hat... er story or both. 

Learning a new craft like crochet doesn’t mean your first project is going to be perfect or even pretty. Look at the picture below for instance.
yarn thingy

Know what it is? Me either, but it was supposed to be a potholder. Yup, really. That’s how most books start out. Pages of words that you know are something but not quite shaped right.  

In the case of my book, it was so bent out of shape I was frustrated and stuffed it in a file out of sight. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good or that it didn’t have potential. Just like… my yarn thing up there.

It makes a great coaster thing as is, but with a little tug the stitches will unravel and it can be reshaped into something closer to what it was supposed to be. A writer does the same thing with a story. My frustration subsided and I pulled up the file. I made some serious tweaks and changes. I even changed the title.

The tale was off and running again…. For a while. There were some plot issues and something missing. There just didn’t seem to be that hook and grab to the first few pages. Still it was better, like my second go at a potholder pictured below.
Almost square! 
I learned how to keep my rows from doing that pyramid thingy. I also learned what my story really needed to make it work.

After a good read through of what I had written, I did a bit more research and reconstructed the plot. Painfully, I ganked the first chapter. Saying toodle loo to over five thousand words is a hard thing to do. However, the death of chapter one gave strength to the rest of the story. Which is now becoming a good book not just a yarn thingy.

What is the moral to this yarn? (Yup, I went there.) Every story is a learning experience. It starts out as an idea that improves with every writing session. Each time a writer sits down they learn something new about the story. Before long, there is a beginning, middle, and end that’s as close to perfect as one can get it.

Did my crochet improve as well as the story? It has, with every project I get a little better there too. Check this out… yes, I really made that. I’m shocked too.
I might be getting the hang of this! 

Don’t give up on a story that you think can’t be fixed because it looks like a yarn thingy. Give it a read through, or have someone else give it a look. The answers are in there, you just have to take a deep breath give it another go. 

You’ll soon fall in love with the plot and characters again. Then you'll have the awesome hat... er... story you started out to create.