Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Useful Exercise

I've mentioned before that my goal this month is to find a solution to the central problem in my novel, or revise the problem into one I can solve.

Well, however I've been approaching this for the past two months hasn't worked, so tonight I tried something a little different.

In the past week I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  I thought it was an outstanding book, so I spent a few minutes jotting down a bullet list of what I thought made it so good.  I've done this with other books before, but it's always been a purely academic exercise, as meaningful as reading a to-do list out of a book on writing.  Also, frankly, it's depressing.  While great books often look easy, analysis invariably reveals layers upon layers of ingenius storycraft.  In other words, a whole lot of work if you're smart enough, simply impossible if you aren't.

That said, I never before had a first draft novel to compare to a freshly internalized list like this one.


The list turns out to be a magical pair of specs.  Suddenly I can see that the problem I can't solve is entirely the wrong problem.  The stakes aren't high enough.  The motivations are too murky.  I know what I have to do.

Wish me luck, and let me know if you've tried something similar to get out of the weeds.


  1. I think you're right about layers. We think we're cooking up a really compelling novel with lots of depth, but we're not. We have to really raise the bar and demand 2 to 3 times the story we originally conceived.

  2. Yay! Congratulations about figuring out what you can do to fix the issues; ain't that just the best feeling? :-D

  3. Jason - You are not kidding!

    JJ - It looks like you and I had breakthroughs at the same time! YAY US!!!