Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Start with the bad guy in mind

Every time I learn something about writing that resonates with me, I slap my forehead and immediately wish I had done things differently.  For example, in the YA paranormal novel I'm working on now, I didn't think too much about the antagonist before I started.  I had an idea for a setting, a heroine, and a really cool set of superpowers.  So I set out, and when I hit about 50,000 words, I started wondering about my antagonist.  Who was he?  What made him tick?  And most importantly, how did he fit into my story?

I had written myself into a corner, in some ways.  Introducing the antagonist 2/3rds into a book is poor form.  I knew I had lots of rewriting in my future, but it wasn't until I read Kristen Lamb's post on antagonists that I realized I was about two months late in asking these questions.  I should have sat down, crafted my villain, and had him immediately start interacting with my heroine.  This pitfall will be easier to avoid in the future, now that I have squarely landed in it, but that leaves me with lots and lots of work to do on my current book.

While this feels like a set-back, a frustration that could leave me pulling my hair out, it also feels good.  For a long time, I didn't write anything because I felt like an idiot every time I wrote a boring paragraph or started too many sentences with "She."  Writing anything book length was out of the question--think of all of the disastrous ways that could go wrong!!  To have this kind of structural problem with my book means that I'm trying--hell, I'm actually doing it.  Failing, yes, but picking myself up as well.

So I'm still plugging away at this novel, hoping to begin my first set of real re-writes next month.  But I'm tucking lesson #238 about writing into my writing toolbox:  Start with the bad guy in mind.

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