Note to Self: It’s Not the Plot

I swear I’ve been here before.

I’m working with this draft of Book 3, and I’ve been revising along pretty steadily from the beginning, knocking out characters and scenes, deepening what remains, and I’ve reached a place where Gaia gets out of trouble.  She can catch her breath for a minute, which is obviously a disaster as far as writing goes.  The two of us sit back and look ahead at the next few scenes, and the links between them are simply not there.  In fact, all of the rest of the book appears to have a random quality.  The scenes make sense within themselves.  Some are quite convincingly grueling, even.  But the underlying threads to keep them all together are not tight.

I think this is what my editor observed when she advised me to consider Gaia’s motivation in this book.  I know what her motivation is.  At heart, it is “fight evil.”  But that isn’t enough.

This is what I’ve realized just now, and it’s connected to “Nothing’s Going to Harm You” from Sweeney Todd which I listened to while I was stationary biking this morning.  I don’t like that musical.  I couldn’t even watch the movie.  But the song has haunted me since I first heard it years ago, and when I listen to it now, I find its peculiar combination of sweetness and menace so disturbing.  I think, the man who wrote that song and that musical was willing to go to some very, very creepy places in his mind.

That’s where I want to go.  Not, of course, into Sondheim’s mind, but into my own dark, squeamish corners.  That’s where I need to go for Book 3.  My problem is not the plot.  I can’t solve this book by lining up the events and bolstering the connections between them.  I need to push deeper into the characters and find out how I can hurt them psychologically.  I have to find the costs there.

Ick, right?

I don’t have my solutions yet, but I know where to go looking for them now.  This is not going to be a fast fix.

4 Responses to Note to Self: It’s Not the Plot

  • I only just 10 minutes ago finished Birth Marked. Then I updated my Goodreads page to reflect said completion. This lead me to googling you and finding out if my instincts were inline to think there might be a Book 2 in the offing. I was delighted to find you, read your recent post and see that you were in fact working on book 3! Yay. Gaia is a great character and I look forward to keeping up with her heart led adventures. Thanks for a great read!

  • LJ ~
    What a very nice note to find as I’m finishing off revising for the night. I’m so glad Gaia’s character appealed to you. She’s been obsessing me for going on three years now, and I hope you’ll like where she leads us in Prized, too.
    All best,

  • Hi Ms. O’brien, I was keeping up with your blog when I got to this post.
    I’m glad to read that Gaia is finally going to catch a break on book 3, she’s been through so much.
    I love Sweeney Todd, but have to agree about the sweet-manace thing being disturbing.
    Hope you can find what you looking for for this book.
    Good writing.

  • Bruna ~
    Well, you know how it goes when I revise. I’m afraid Gaia doesn’t catch much of a break after all. I did find what I needed to go forward, fortunately. It just involved rewriting a huge chunk of the book. Thanks for the encouragement!
    All best,

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