Toppling Walls

Back in 2006 I was lucky enough to get into Holly Lisle's Breakout Novel class. Holly was still an active member of Forward Motion back then, which is how and why I came to be in her class. It was a huge honor to get to work with a professional writer in such a small group setting. Although we had several people "auditing" the class, there were only six of us that Holly agreed to mentor through the creative process.

Holly shaped our course around Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. After reading assigned chapters, we would have to complete our weekly homework assignments and turn them in for review. We had to come up with something new to work on, something fresh. We outlined scenes, discussed personal and world stakes, and filled in character sheets. Holly would comment and guide, ask questions and challenge plot holes. Trust me when I tell you it was hard work.

We didn't get a chance to finish the course, though. Real life interfered and Holly had to prioritize her work load. In the end, the class had to be sacrificed and the six of us were left to pursue the creative path on our own. Armed with the book and its companion workbook, we could continue on alone or amongst ourselves.

I still have the work I put into that fresh, new story of mine. I have the chat transcripts, the character sheets, the numbers, the scene outlines. I have it all. This story is by far the most thought-out, preplanned, pre-written story I've ever worked on. Yet, every time I've tried to write it down, to mold the ideas and scenes into prose, I lose my way. I flounder. I hit a wall.

Runners talk about hitting walls. As a fledgling runner myself, I've hit it the proverbial wall more than once. There have been days when I let the wall knock me down and keep me down, when I let the sheer size of it overwhelm my will. There have also been days when I've kept my legs moving, forced my lungs to keep the rhythm, and, in doing so, have pushed the wall down and left it behind me.

I need to do the same thing with this story. I need to force my fingers to keep typing. I need to let the story unfold in its own messy, undignified manner. I need to keep reminding myself that the first draft of the story is like training for a race. Each practice lap is necessary if you want race day to be successful, just as each draft of the story is necessary to the final product. Nothing worthwhile can be accomplished without putting in the time and effort.

And I believe this story is worthwhile.