Saturday, August 25, 2007

Break a...nail?

I've been on vacation this last week. I didn't write, I didn't diet. I didn't do much of anything strenuous, which was perfect. Just before we left, I had a manicure. My hands looked great. Pretty polish, perfect length on my nails, just delightful and quite unusual for me with an active lifestyle including dogs and lets-play-baseball-and-chase-sons. I was thrilled. So, I'll ask you, have you ever broken a nail just when you thought they were the perfect length, looked great and actually looked like you intended them to? Yep, did that. Unlike acrylics, if your natural nails break, you can't (alas) just run by the nail shop and fix it. Darn it. I can't stand it to have my nails all different lengths, and I broke this one off to the quick. Ouch. So they all had to go much shorter. A whole different direction...

Yeah, this really does tie back to writing. Grin. I'm currently immersed in two works-in-process (WIPs) which are totally different. So far, I don't know if my editor would be interested in either of them for book two of my contract. One of them is out, I know, because its a paranormal. The other could be, but...who knows?

So I got this idea. Big idea. Great plot unfolding in my brain just as I woke up. Woo-hoo, thought I. Coool! So as my husband drove us home from our vacation, I made notes. As I drove the last bit, I made mental notes. I hurriedly scribbled the mental notes down as soon as we got home, before I even helped unload the car. Wonderful, I thought. Maybe THIS would be a good second book.

This morning, I excitedly read over all the notes, took them forward a bit more and realized...melodramatic music here...that the plot wouldn't work. I felt like I'd broken that pretty, polished, feminine nail all over again. Drat. Grrrr. Back to the drawing board and the WIPs. I'm not a plotter, and I'm not really a "pantser" either. I'm more of a plotzer. (Sounds like an exotic dog breed, doesn't it?) So I know both the WIPs will work because I know how they end, even if I don't know all the steps in between. Couldn't see an end to this really cool plot. Still can't. I'm going to keep working and hoping that if I let it percolate long enough, this fabulous idea will suddenly twist around in my brain in some believable way so I can write it.

Until then, I've taken off the polish, filed the nails and am back at the keyboard. Have you ever had one of those great ideas that fizzled on you? How did you cope? Did it ever spring back, full blown and work out? I'd love to hear about it. Even if you broke a nail over it... Grins.


Joan said...


Great analogy!

I'm not a plotter either. I just kind of draw a line down the center of a piece of paper and timeline stuff on it.

I can't say I've ever had a plot not be able to work itself out....I've spent a lot of time THINKING about plots before writing but so many times the process just kind of unfolds as I go.

I wish it would unfold FASTER many times, but so far so good.

Personally, I think you should go on another vacation to figure this one out :-)

jo robertson said...

Great idea, Joan, going on another vacation. Run that by the family, Jeanne. LOL

I love the plotzer term, sounds perfect for those of us who are a little bit of both. I usually start with a premise and characters and figure out how they're in jeopardy, but I often don't know the ending until I write it. For me it evolves gradually. The very act of writing the story reveals more and more, like peeling back those layers of an onion. All I know for sure is that the bad guy loses and the lovers don't.

I have a question, Jeanne. Are you just scared out of your wits having a contract for a book you haven't written and don't have a clear idea of (or maybe you do)? I'm afraid that pressure would stall my creative mojo!

P.S. And I'll always think of your book as Black Knight, love that title.

Anna Campbell said...

A plotzer sounds like a lovely companion for one's twilight years. Easy to care for, good temperament, doesn't eat much. Do you know a good breeder, Duchesse?

Got brain drain after spending the day with Ms Wells over at Risky Regencies

But thought I'd pop in to say I'm still so excited that you sold, Jeanne. That's such fantastic news and couldn't happen to a nicer person. And I lurve your cover (which is now on the sidebar on the Banditas site for anyone who has been under a rock and missed it!).

Keira Soleore said...

FoAnna, just to prove I'm not under a rock, I routinely scan the sidebar and caught Jeanne's cover and Beth's sale news.

Plotzer, eh? Well, I don't know what I am. I've tried the pantser method. Now I'm trying the plotter method. We'll see which one is going to be the one for me.

Christine Wells said...

Jeanne, that's the mark of a real writer--someone who can turn a broken nail into a discussion about plotting! Loved your post.

This happened to me with book 2 in my 2 book contract, actually. I'd put the proposal in. Agent loved it, editor approved it, but it didn't work. I was exhausted from looking after a new baby and I thought I wasn't getting anywhere because I was so tired. But then I revisited Jenny Crusie's lesson on the conflict lock and realized the problem--my hero and heroine weren't the ones driving the plot. When that became clear, I cut two characters, gave their problems (or a modified version of them) to the hero and heroine, and then it worked like a dream. I was very glad I plucked up the courage to tell my agent and editor about this change of direction. You might worry that it looks unprofessional to do something like this, but writers, especially pantsers like me, don't really know what's going to work sometimes until it's on the page. I'm very grateful that my editor understands that and simply asked for another proposal. Now, I have to go and write the ending. Wish me luck!

And a big THANK YOU to Helen and Keira and all the banditas who joined the raid on the Risky Regencies blog. It was great fun!

Christie Kelley said...

Love the term plotzer. I also had this happen with the second book in this series. I'm currently on plot number 3 for book number 2.

It wasn't so much that the plot wasn't working as the characters weren't working with the plot. I just don't think they liked the plot. (Yeah, I know how strange that sounds to people who don't write)

So far I think all involved in the story (me, the characters, the editor) all like this plot much better than the first two.

Beth said...

Jeanne, I'm a proud plotzer too and, like you, I'm working on a few new plot ideas. One is giving me fits because I love the characters, the setting and the romantic conflict but I'm still trying to figure out the best plot.

I keep tweaking my characters' backstories and motivations in the hopes I'll be able to come up with something half-way brilliant.

Hmmm...maybe we should both go on vacation :-) A Bandita writing/plotting retreat might be just what we need *g*

Buffie said...

Jeanne -- I guess I always look on the brighter side of things. At least you found out the plot would not work before you got too deep into the writing. And hey, just like a finger nail grows back, your ideas will grow too :)

Caren Crane said...

Buffie, well said! My friend Sabrina is a big-time plotter. She loves to brainstorm with us about her plots that "just aren't working". I usually listen to her and say, "Sounds plausible to me. All you have to do is motivate it well enough and I'd buy it."

So, one writer's "would never work" is another writer's "just needs a tweak". Let it percolate (or marinate, as I like to say). What you come up with eventually will be much better than whatever you thought of initially.

And I hear you, Christie. I got 2/3 of the way through my 6th book TWICE before I found the right plot for my heroine. She put me through the wringer! But when it's not working, it's just not working. *eg*

Suzanne Welsh said...

Pass the nail file, Jeanne! Even when we're on vacation our brains are still working, sometimes overtime.

My current WIP was giving me fits. First I didn't know who the bad guy was. Which is sort of good, because that means neither will the reader! Then I couldn't get the motivation for why he was doing things to gel in my brain. And I wasn't sure how to resolve both the external and internal plots. GEESH!

About 2/3 of the way through all the loose threads my subconscious had been putting into the book came together and I could see not only who the bad guy was, but how the end of the book would work. Yippee!!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

A plotting vacation...hmmm, Beth, Foanna, Joan, I love the idea...anyone else wanna go? :> Jo, its entirely possible that I'm blocking the flow. Its been known to happen! I think though that WIP #1 will work for the second book in the contract, though. I was just bummed that this new idea hasn't yeat worked itself out. Yet. I think it will, just not sure HOW yet! Buffie, I think you have the right of it. If I just let it simmer and grow awhile...grins. Glass half full. Yeah, Suz! I think this one may work out that way too. I'm going to put it on the back burner for now. I try to only work on 2 at a time or I never finish anything. Ha! This one can perk while I go back to my "job" of my WIPs. Jo, I'll always think of it as Black Knight too.

Cassondra said...

Jeanne, plotzer is a great word.

I come up with these terrific conflicts--the kernel of a plot idea. And dang, if only a complete plot came along with it. My plots never fail to be moth eaten--holes the size of moon craters. And it takes FOREVER for me to figure out where I've missed the tiny kernel of what the whole thing is ACTUALLY about. Once I get that, I have to rewrite the entire book, but then it works. And the funny thing is, that often it's my characters' backstories that I've missed. They just clam up and won't tell, and thus, I can't figure out why they're in the jams they're in, and thus, the holes in the plot.

Firm plot-from-character believer here.

Plotzer is perfect for what I am. And I need far more than a nail file. Might as well just wrap metaphoric bandaids around the ends of my fingers from the metaphoric nail-chewing over the stories. Ashamed to show my hands in public. The angst over the plot is often that bad.