My plotting adventure continues. I have now finished the plot summary for Tyubik (though I will go over it again before starting Draft 5), and have done 4/5 of the plot summary for Janna. After having summarized about 1/5 of the book the hair on my head started moving. I couldn't keep all the dates and the places and the characters straight to be able to summarize them correctly. How did I even write all this? I got online, dug around for help, and found that many writers do timelines. Well, I decided to make one too, a simple table with dates, places, and corresponding plot twists. It's halfway done now. In the middle of doing it I understood that there is danger in over-planning. All these summaries and charts and tables can get so complicated that I can spend months perfecting them and never get any writing done, or be so tired of the whole story idea by the time I'm done with plotting that the actual writing will be boring.
Where does this leave me? I'll have to find some kind of balance, I think. Do enough planning to get to know where I'm going and start writing. The only way I'll find this balance is by trial and error. This is scary shit, folks. I've already been writing Tyubik for over one year. I better finish it quickly, before I'll be tempted to shelve it altogether.
Another thing I'm learning is that the plot structure is different for different genres. I have begun writing my books without any genres in mind, blissfully ignoring them in favor of my art carrying me out of my messes. This is a typical approach of any novice, as I'm learning now. The ignorance that bites you in the ass later. It's the "I don't know that I don't know" stage of learning. I was like a rabid animal defending my right to create if anyone told me anything. Well, good job, Ksenia. You were wrong. They were right. It's a natural learning process. Now "I know that I don't know," that's where the hesitation with The Badlings came from. It's my story number 4, and yet it's the weakest. The energy burst from "OMG! I'm fucking writing books! I can do it!" has fizzled out, but the knowledge hasn't been acquired yet. Bingo. I suppose this is where many beginning writers quit. After the first splash of the first book and the cheering of the family, friends, and fools, that is, cheering strangers who are excited about your new beginning (not so much about your book), the following books for some reason fail to sell, and gradually you start feeling like you're not getting better, you're getting worse. Or you're not getting worse, but you're not growing, either. In other words, YOU'RE GETTING NOWHERE.
I've been obsessed over these last few weeks with trying to understand why I wrote the books I wrote and why I started getting more and more disgusted with them the more I wrote. Logically it should've been the opposite. Here is where the genres come in, weirdly enough. Genres are a way for booksellers to categorize books so they know what shelf they belong to. It's also a way for critics to define where your book fits. And it's a marketing concept. Yet it came from writing itself, from different kinds stories that's we have told each other since we learned how to talk. Love stories. Battle stories. Victory stories. Tragedies. Comedies. Then when stories got more complex, more refined, and were put into books, and then books started selling. The commercial concept of genre was born, a way to categorize commercial fiction (I'm pulling this out of my ass, by the way, I don't know how accurate my assumption really is). And it's commercial fiction that I want to learn how to write, to make a living at writing. And it's commercial fiction that I love reading, for its completeness, a finished product that is worth my money. I'm not talking here about merits of literature, so don't jump down my throat screaming that I'm scorning free art that is not concerned with being sellable. I'm not. I'm talking about books as products. Why? Because I want to learn how to make my books into sellable products, how to channel my wild energy into something that feeds me and pays my rent. Therefore, genres.
Turns out, I've been writing fantastical mysteries with elements of paranormal. Siren Suicides at its core is a mystery that tried to be horror. Rosehead is a mystery that didn't have time to turn to horror (and thank God, because that saved it from me). Irkadura graduated from mystery to horror and even graduated to suspense in places. The Badlings started out as mystery then I tried turning it into adventure and failed. TUBE also started out as mystery, then turned horror, and now I'm making it into suspense. Janna, on the other end, began as suspense and will stay as suspense.
Why did I do all this shifting and changing? I know now. I will explain.
My assumptions are, of course, generalizations. Every book has elements of many genres. However, mystery is something where you know a bad thing has happened, but you don't know who did it and why. This is how I used to write all my first drafts, by way of discovering the story as I went, hence—mystery. Horror is where you see the bad thing happening, you get a seat in the first row. So when I tried writing pure horror from the start (TUBE), I failed because I was writing it as mystery, trying to figure it out as I went, and then I wrote myself into a corner. Now, suspense is where we know a bad thing is about to happen, we even know who will do it and how and why, and yet we read on. For suspense. This is Janna. And suspense is what I love reading most, so I guess I hit my genre. At least for now. But genre doesn't matter here as much as me dismantling my process. You see, if I continued writing mysteries like Rosehead, I'd be okay without plotting, or with minimal plotting. But I can't really write suspense if I don't know what's happening next. I HAVE TO KNOW. And that is where my frustration with TUBE came from. I read the draft and saw that it wasn't horror at all, it was a mess of scenes that tried to be scary.
This is incredible, seeing how my process works. If you haven't analyzed your own books, I highly recommend it. I'm actually going to write plot summaries for one or several of my books, to see where the holes are and what I'm good at doing naturally, and what I need to learn.
There is a huge difference in writing blindly and writing knowingly. I'm not there yet. The reason I'm so scared and disoriented and frustrated right now is because I suddenly see that I'm not there yet. I didn't see it before.
Of course, the only way out of this is forward. I shall finish the plot summary and the timeline for Janna by the beginning of next week, send it off to my writing mentor for tearing it apart, do another scrub through the plot summary for Tyubik and then start writing it. The final draft. Draft 5. What will that look like, writing while sticking to the plot? I have no idea. Wish me luck. And send me coffee. And stuff. You know, the usual.