Friday, December 4, 2009

Twenty-Eight Chapters and a New Direction

The first twenty-five chapters of Rain were written nearly a year ago, while I was working the night shift at my old job. I wrote a chapter a week at least, sometimes one a night while I was on a streak, thinking I was penning a postmodern story about a young woman and the ghost that lives in her apartment building. The chapters were going to be short, possibly out of order, possibly in numbered outline format. It was going to be weird, something I’d never attempted before, a fun way of keeping my sanity in an office in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night.

Rain suffered a strange metamorphosis along the way. It became more of a straightforward serial, throwing off the cloak of experimental formatting and becoming something much closer to my usual writing style than I’d hoped. Still, I enjoyed writing it, mostly because I don’t normally allow myself to inject as much humor into my work as I was doing with this project.

I was laid off, and working on other projects at home, and so Rain went dormant for a while. When I decided to put it up online for fun and feedback, I had no idea where the story was going to go beyond the chapters I already have. Now, after posting those chapters and penning an additional three, I have a confession to make.

I still don’t know where the story’s going.

Sure, I’ve added extra depth by exploring what happens to other, less hospitable Ragged victims, but I haven’t the foggiest idea still what exactly the Ragged are, who Ethan is (aside from an unusual shop owner, which I know doesn’t cover the half of it with him), what Addison and Marcus are going to go through or how the story will end.

I suppose this is what should be making the story fun to write, and it is in a way, but it’s also causing me to worry a bit. Without any idea of where to go, without an outline or even a series of key plot points to work on, I feel a bit lost. I wonder if perhaps I’ll meander with the story for months without taking it to any logical conclusion, or that it will become too fantastic at some point.

There are elements creeping in that I never would have expected to see, and I suppose that’s the beauty of winging it. Were I doing this entirely as Open Office documents and not sharing them with anyone but a few choice beta readers, I wouldn’t have any anxiety at all. I’d be loving it, free to make my mistakes in private and correct them at my leisure. But now that I’m doing this in public, and on a schedule, there’s a feeling of real work involved. I now get to worry about making a royal ass out of myself with inaccuracies, inconsistencies or plain boring chapters. I now get to worry about alienating what few readers I now have (I’ve lost and gained a handful over the months) and wondering if my writing style and subject matter are up to snuff.

I guess what I’m saying is this - if you like the story, let me know. If you don’t like the story, I’d like to hear about that as well. Feedback is important to me. Otherwise, I’d have been content to email each new chapter to close personal friends and pester them for their thoughts. With Rain, I honestly have no idea what I’m about to write ninety-nine percent of the time. The other one percent, when I do know what I’m going to be doing, usually stems from a few scribbles on the back of a Denny’s placemat or a line of frantic, barely legible notes I’ve scrawled in the middle of doing something else. There is no real brainstorming, no free writing, no careful planning involved. I kind of like that seat-of-the-pants approach, but without feedback, without any external scrutiny, I have no idea if it’s working or not.

I can judge other people’s works, but being so close to my own kind of shatters that ability. I need reader comments. Constructive criticism, hate mail, prestigious literary awards and dirty jokes can all be posted on the Facebook group or sent to


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