|by Sarah Ann Loreth via Pinterest|
Something interesting happened over the course of answering the questions though, something unexpected. As I looked more carefully at each exercise, I noticed that the language used was a little different from what I was used to reading in writing how-to's. The first question was easy and innocuous:
What is the source of your novel idea, and what is the idea?
This I answered with little effort.
The next question seemed just as easy and unobtrusive as the first:
What is your intention toward the idea?
As I sat, with pen poised above the page, I realized I didn't understand the question. What did they mean, intention? I scanned back through the chapter and figured out that all they meant is that my intention toward the idea must be to write a novel about it. Simple. But the word tripped me up, and this got me thinking. Actually thinking about the questions that I had had every intention of breezing through in a foolish attempt to trick myself into believing I was doing something thoughtful and productive. But now, my juices were flowing.
What is your attitude toward the intention?
What the hell kind of book is this? What kind of language is this, to be used for writing exercises? It sounds more like some kind of dime-store psycho-babble self-help fodder. Gah!
RESISTANCE. I was only on the the third question and already I wanted to give up because it was too hard. Too indirect. I wanted to work on my story, not my thoughts about my story! So I skimmed over each question again and realized that they were all like these: forcing me think about the why of my story rather than the how. I know myself well enough to be very aware that my greatest flaw is laziness. I took a good look at my resistance to this questionnaire and knew that completing it would be a lot more work than I'd bargained for. And that's when I knew. I had to go on; above, under, and all around the resistance that was holding me back. Because this time, it wasn't just laziness. I really didn't want to think this deeply about my WIP, which scared me. What was I afraid of?
There were 8 questions for this first chapter. The first 3 above and the next 5 below:
- Do you believe your attitude toward the intention is strong, clear, and meaningful? If so, why?
- What is your purpose in writing this novel?
- Does your purpose statement include the words "to prove"?
- Do you honestly believe your statement of purpose will point the direction you must take in writing the novel?
- Are you qualified by personal experience to write this novel? If not, are you willing to do the required research?
But one of them in particular really tripped me up. #5: What is my purpose in writing this novel? I had struggled with this in the past. All my life, in fact. I'd never bothered to write because I believed I had nothing to say. I eventually started writing A BIRD'S EYE VIEW anyway, because I knew I couldn't say I'd tried to be a writer unless I wrote something. And that's when I discovered that this is what I was afraid of. That my story was empty of meaning, it had no purpose, no impact, it had nothing to offer, nothing to say.
I hated question #5. My immediate response was: because I want to, because I feel like it (so there!). But anyone who knows me can hear the lie in my words. I don't want to write, I never feel like writing, I hate writing! So what was the real answer? What was my purpose here? Why do I keep trying? I wrote a three-page-long rambling, nearly incoherent response to #5 that finally coalesced into an answer. My a-ha moment.
Oh. My. God.
I do have something to say.
I have learned something over the course of my life. Something I need to share.
I could tell you in only a few short sentences. But then it would be trite and obvious, as most truths are too deeply familiar to ever really be surprising.
So instead, I will show you. I need to show you what I've learned.
That is my purpose in writing this novel.
So now, I'm writing again, and it's so clear. Not easy, no, never that. But I understand what I'm doing, and why. I know now, clearly, what must be there in every chapter, every character, in the words and between the lines. Because I have a theme, people! I have Something To Say.
I guess you never really know where answering a few questions with thoughtfulness and honesty will take you. ;)
PS: The book: Structuring Your Novel by Robert Meredith and John Fitzgerald