Thesis – Week 3: No villain?!

Um, where did the week go? No really, what happened?

I fully intended to post again before the beginning of Week 3…but here I am. Week THREE already?!

I seem to be plagued by frequent headaches recently, so that has made me want to avoid staring at computer screens for longer than I have to. Unfortunately, staring at one is what I did for nearly 40 hours last week, at that thing that pays you money for doing stuff…oh yeah, my JOB.

The reality of my undertaking hit me just a bit harder last week. I have never, ever, taken my craft for granted, but as I set out to write this behemoth of a story…I can’t help but wonder how one doesn’t become overwhelmed. I am in awe of those authors who pen dozens of books or hundreds of stories or thousands of lines of poetry; I am in awe of those who are able to continuously mine their imaginations and produce fresh work. Yes, this may be stretched over an entire lifetime, but the real heroes of writing, to me, are those authors, both the aspiring and the established, with a 9-5 day job that doesn’t involve writing. The ones that still find the time to do what they love…that’s magical. And I don’t think they’re human…

In the coming weeks, I’m sure this will be hammered home even further, as I attempt this balance myself. The same time management skills (which were sorely tested) that I employed for workshops and literary analysis courses throughout the course of my MFA certainly apply here, just to the umpteenth degree. There is no schedule. No due dates, except the one. I am alone. This is why my greatest fears are being confirmed, that my own tendencies are my greatest enemy. I try to schedule, to outline, to plan, but doing so feels so wholly alien to me, someone who is used to being thrust with her back up against a deadline, someone who is capable of producing A+ work at the last minute. But this thesis/novel-writing stuff…

This is a whole other animal. A beast that cannot and should not be underestimated. Or put off until the last day.

Having a plan of attack is essential when tackling something of this magnitude. This of course sounds obvious, but until you find yourself in the thick of it, you really don’t understand or appreciate its necessity. Novels don’t just happen. You don’t just have an idea, and then write it down, and write and write and write until you reach the end. No. I don’t know of anyone who thinks of their stories in a linear fashion, or writes them that way for that matter, beginning at the beginning, right on through to the middle (with a break for lunch) and then boom! the end. I sure as hell don’t operate that way.

I write cinematically. I think and see in scenes, and then write them down as best I can. (This is part of the reason why I am often accused of overwriting, but that’s another discussion for another post.) I’ve written the last scene of this book, but I have no idea where the beginning is. What the hell am I going to put on that first page, to draw my readers in, and make them want, no, need, to read until the last? I keep hoping that if I write enough, I’ll stumble upon the beginning, but who knows, it could be something I’ve already written and consider to be from the “middle”! Basically, I’ve become an editor of my own imagination. And right now, I’m trying to piece together this novel, edit it for maximum impact, without having read the script, and before principal photography has wrapped!

In short, I’m lost. Isn’t that a recipe for madness…so many metaphors to make here…

Yesterday evening, I sat down with my laptop and opened two windows: one was an Excel spreadsheet, the other, a blank Word document. And I began to plan this final project to which so many hopes of mine are pinned.

I listed all the pieces (poetry, short fiction, flash fiction, portion of screenplays) that I will include in my 70-100 page thesis project, keeping in mind I wanted to allocate roughly three quarters of space to my novel’s manuscript. Many – if not all – of these other pieces will need to be revised. Some heavily. Others have had the benefit of marinating in their original creative juices for a while, and I will see them with (nearly) fresh eyes. In my Word document then, I began copying and pasting pieces, and came up with roughly 34 pages of material, leaving me a little over 60 pages to fill with Infernal.

In last week’s post, I said I had roughly 22 chapters already written, over the course of five or six years. Just to get an idea of how many of those would be need to be included to get to that 100 page threshold, I began copying and pasting. And I made two rather disconcerting (but necessary) discoveries:

  1. I realized that my definition of “chapter” is grossly disproportionate to the amount of pages they amount to, and
  2. My writing for Infernal has grown stale, because I’ve taken it as far as I can without one, very important element: an antagonist.

I couldn’t believe it. One of the absolute most basic essentials of storytelling, conflict propelling the story to a dénouement, had eluded me! And for so long!

I need a villain! And I had better find him – or her – in the next 8 weeks…!


P.S. I am hoping that my recent discovery of Bauhaus and “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” will help me write from that darker corner of my imagination… *hits “Repeat” and crosses fingers*


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