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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Split-Up Story

Yes, this story is a breakup story and a tearjerker. It is not particularly fantastic, and writers everywhere will feel for me.

This is not a story like Rhett leaving Scarlett, or Effie and Curtis (Dreamgirls -- if you didn't cry, you're wrong).

*sniffle* Why couldn't those crazy kids work it out?
No, this isn't a romantic breakup, but it hurt. Like, a lot. This is the breakup of a novel, and I tell you it was a total sobfest.

There's a trend in books-turned-into-movies to break up the final book into a two-parter. Why do they do this? "To make money!" cry the cynics.

Those guys are real jerkwads.

"To make INSANE money!" cries everyone else.

Seriously guys, when did we get so jaded. I mean, look. I'm sure that's PART of it. Not sure why we're pretending to hate money so much when we say it, but ... perhaps we'll get into that another time (we won't). But can we all just agree that, sometimes, it's probably better than the alternative.

Posting that link made my heart very sad. Talk about a majorly missed opportunity -- that movie was made of disappointment.

A movie so confused, even it didn't know what was going on.
Moving on.

Much like some books need to be two movies (Mockingjay probably deserves this treatment -- we'll see how the movie turns out, but I can believe it), some books really just need to be two books. Like Anna Karenina. That totally should have been one book about Anna Karenina, and a separate book that is actually an instruction manual on how to make hay. Other similar occurrences: Les Miserables should have been one book about the miserable people and one (looooong) collection of philosophical essays. Atlas Shrugged should have been one book about insufferable people, and one book that is just a really overly self-righteous speech about the economics of selfishness and intellectual property rights. Moby Dick should have been one book about some crazy guy hunting a whale and probably at least 20 other books about every topic that ever interested Herman Melville. But, much like these notable works, I digress.

To a lesser extent, and without explicitly comparing myself to Tolstoy, Hugo, Rand or Melville (who needs to be explicit when you can imply?), my novel fit this category. It was two books hastily shoved into one. It was a polycephalic mess -- one part mostly healthy, one part underdeveloped extraneous head. The nice thing is, it's a novel, not a creature. We can rebuild it. We have the technology, we can make it better than before.

And by "the technology", I mean a word processor and control+V. I copied the approximately 14,000 words that didn't belong and pasted them into a new document. I now have two novels -- one 2/3s of the way complete, and one 1/4 complete. (But 2/3 + 1/4 doesn't equal 1! Of course it doesn't Have you read this blog before? My novel was never complete in the first place).

The decision was painful. I didn't want to do it, I wanted the two pieces to be together. I loved my little two-headed monster. But it was a good idea, and I'm going to show you the question I had to ask to come to my decision. Hopefully this helps you too.

1- What is the primary conflict of the novel?
Can you answer this question easily? Good for you. I could not because there was a primary conflict that got resolved, and then another conflict that sprung up 3/4s of the way through the novel. Nobody likes that. I can think of books I've read where that happened and I'm always tempted to (and sometimes I do) throw them aside after I'm asked to care and invest in and entirely new conflict. Nope. No thank you. Save it for the sequel.
2- By what point are all of the important characters introduced?
Do you introduce the important characters, or the existence of the important characters, early in the novel? You probably should. New characters are fine, but when you introduce an entirely new set of characters that I'm supposed to care about way far into the novel, I'm never going to care about them as much as the characters I met early on.
3- How many "new beginnings" or "fresh starts" does your main character experience? (Ugh, this is starting to feel like homework, why are we doing this again? Oh, right, to get published.)
Look, this can get out of hand really fast. If you've got a lot of these going on, you may just need to take one of those "new beginnings" and actually make it a beginning to a new novel. I'm not trying to be cute, sometimes, it just happens. (I'm positively adorable, right?).
4- How much time have you devoted to the subplot?
If you're devoting a significant portion of your novel to what you consider to be a subplot -- in my case about 75% of what I had written so far was "subplot" -- it may not be a subplot at all. It may just be the plot to a separate novel. Try not to be afraid. Roll with it. And start writing.

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