Lost in the Jungle of Story

I haven’t been online in quite a while.  Most of my time has been taken up with avoiding being online.  It feels oddly like keeping a private diary and then putting it in a store window for everyone to read.  For me, it’s sort of like wearing underwear on the outside of your clothes.

At this point, my spouse would say, “Get over your precious self!”

“I will try, honey.”

I am currently between draft one of a novel and draft two.  This is usually my cue to dump the whole mother and start again.  I’m really trying not to do that.  The tough part is distinguishing what doesn’t work from what almost works, and not recoiling in disgust and hurling the manuscript out the window.

I’m peering beneath the skin and tissue down to the very bones of the story and hoping I can figure out how to fix it.

To calm myself down about this process, I do what everyone else does.  I search for some writing gospel that I can believe in.  Some answers to my eternal questions of how to make my writing into something enjoyable for others to read (or at least coherent).

There’s a ton of stuff out there about the mechanics of story.  I find a lot of it very useful, particularly during the rewrite process, when I’ve actually got my mound of clay to work with.

On the other hand, I think what I really long for is someone to show me the path that my story can cut through the jungle of material.  If only I could read the correct how to book, or blog, or fortune cookie, I will know what to do.

The horrible truth is that no one can show me that.  The other paths that have been cut are familiar and successful, but they are their paths.  Only I can find my own path.

There’s a moment in the movie “Stargate” just before James Spader is about to step through into the unknown.  It seems as if he is about to touch the face of God.  This is what it’s like when I happen upon a reasonable approach to understanding story.  My heart swells, I fall to my knees, and I cry like the true penitent believer that I want to be.

When Mr. Spader actually passes through the stargate, of course, it’s just more plot stuff.  And that’s what it feels like when, again, I come to the realization that no one can save my story but me.

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