This is my 1968 Camaro convertible. I rescued her from outside Wichita. Her name is Dorothy because she isn’t in Kansas anymore. And yes, this post will eventually be about writing.
Now you may look at Dorothy as a candidate for the junkyard. And yes, she needs some work. Well, she needs almost everything. But she has nice options like a power top and a manual transmission. And most important, she has a good frame, the rails that support the car. I can put new fenders, a new top, and new floorboards on a good frame. Without a strong frame, the car would collapse on itself, no matter how many new parts I added.
Along with resurrecting a car, I’m resurrecting a manuscript. It’s not as old as Dorothy, but it’s from a while ago. I re-read the synopsis, remembered how enthusiastic I was writing it, and thought it had promise.
It became slow going. Apparently, I thought adverbs were wonderful back them. When writing monologues, seems I confused “internal” with “Interminable.” I’ve cut so many redundant passages that the 90,000 word novel is verging on novella. After four tedious hours where the story bored even me, I considered giving up and working on one of the new ideas always sitting in queue.
The time had come for the seat-of-the pants writer to turn outliner. This always happens to me, usually about two-thirds into the manuscript. I need to make sure the threads are all weaving into some coherent pattern. I went through each chapter and summarized the main action and what characters were involved. I like to put it in a table like the example below:
This way I can follow multiple, overlapping plotlines, like Chapter 5 where Scott and Oates meet.
After looking over the chart, I decided to stick with it. Like Dorothy, the story has a good frame, but here it’s called plot.
So why am I bored by it? Characters without fire, without connection, are killing it. I can fix that. In this action-driven paranormal thriller, that will be the equivalent of swapping out Dorothy’s fenders and recovering her seats. Plot problems, like a rust-weakened frame, requires so much re-writing, I’d rather just start something else that stirred new passion.
If a story isn’t feeling right, take the time to ensure the plot clicks. It is a lot easier for those of you who outline compared to pantsers like myself. By the way, this is an example of why my advice is don’t be a pantser. Way too time consuming, with lots of writing dead ends. I read an interview with a prolific author who said he used to be a pantser and had to switch methods to keep his volume up.
Back to work. Two projects to finish. Of the two, Dorothy might take a little longer.