Friday, January 28, 2011

Cart, Meet Horse. Horse, please step behind Cart.

I caved to the demands of my shiny, wintry story idea and plan to put sweltering story idea on the back burner for the time being. Honestly, I don't know that I was quite ready to write it anyway. I think I'll let it simmer until a) wintry story is finished b) it's too hot to write wintry story c) I actually finish all the research for sweltering story idea or d) my characters from sweltering story threaten mutiny. This two-project-at-a-time thing is new territory for me, and it's making me very nervous. But I just keep thinking--writers write, so get something down on paper--wintry or sweltering, just do it!

Old timey photo of Yosemite in winter. Two out of three things are like the wintry story: It's wintry and old-timey, but hasn't a thing to do with Yosemite. Nifty picture, though!

So, to cement the dedication to wintry story idea, I wrote a very, very rough query for it. (You may be wondering, after reading "wintry story" far more times already than is really enjoyable, why I didn't cement my dedication by coming up with a working title, and I, too, dear reader, am beginning to ask myself the same question.) This may seem like putting the cart before the horse, and of course it is. I will certainly not be using this query when (if) this manuscript reaches that point. For one, it's a hot mess. For another, the nuances of the story and its themes will likely change as it develops, marinates, and is revised. Still, I like having something like back-cover copy to keep me on the straight and narrow while I write.

It's easy to get carried away with plot points and secondary characters, or, my greates sin, descriptive scenes with pretty writing that don't really go anywhere (I'm getting better, promise). Having the query in place is like writing down a goal: This is what the story is about. This is what I want it to do. When I start to wander, I can come back to that and think, "Does this further the goals I laid out in the beginning?" If so, awesomesauce. If not...it's time to assess whether it's the direction or the goals that need revisiting and changing.

The query in its current stage is merely an email to myself. I won't format it or play with it much from now until the MS is finished. But it's a good guidepost--and I know I'll continue to check it as I push further into the story.

6 comments:

Connie said...

I've never tried it, but I've heard that a lot of writers write their pitch paragraph first to keep them on track. Let us know if it works.

Hema P. said...

Love the title of this post :-). I like the idea of using a query draft to keep you in line! I promised myself that I'll outline like crazy for my next project. (Just dived in cold for my current project...)

Great pictures, btw!

Rowenna said...

Connie--Will do!

Hema--Thanks :) I tend to dive in cold and really can't keep to good outlines...so this is my compromise:) (I nicked the pics from Wikicommons, btw.)

Ax said...

I always dread writing queries or synopsis. To stay focused I'll daydream about the blurb on the back of the book and will write that down. And yes, it is far too wintery for a sweltering book. Go where the muse strikes!

Caroline said...

What a brilliant idea! I'm not much for outlining and storyboarding, but having a rough query is an excellent way of keeping on track. Perhaps I shall do this before I totally re-structure my Rev War novel.

And don't worry about two books at once... I've been cheating on "The Enemy Within" for years! :-)

Rowenna said...

Ax--I know, queries are blah. I hope maybe having a rough draft will trick me, when the time comes, into thinking "oh, it's just revising!" even though it's totally redoing it. Yes! Follow the Muse!

Caroline--let me know how it goes for you!