Friday, July 04, 2008

The Dark Side -- Eve

I have 27 days and 27 nights left until my self-imposed deadline for completing my YA novel is upon me! The lack of hours isn't what's scaring me, though. It's the fact that my once sweet, simple love story has drifted over to the dark side and become something I hadn't seen coming. Which is ironic because the book's main theme is facing our fear of the unknown. And I've got some serious Unknown-O-Phobia right now. Isn't that like art imitating life imitating art or something? I don't know. Maybe I've been chewing on too many licorice sticks.

All I know is that these new ideas are popping out of my head and shooting through my fingers into the keyboard and splattering onto the computer screen and creating a story that is very different from the one that is so neatly outlined on my giant dry erase board. The story now has more tension, more adventure, more stakes, and more...well, um...freaky stuff. But, see, this didn't start out as a freaky story. And I didn't think I had it in me to write freaky stuff. Don't get me's not like Saw or Halloween or The Strangers freaky stuff. It's more like "M. Night Shyamalan / I see dead people" weird stuff. And that kind of story excites me and creeps me out at the same time.

My dilemma now is...Do I continue on this Stephen King route? Or do I delete everything I've written in the last 48 diet coke-intoxicated hours and return to my Nicholas Sparks roots? It's a tough one. Sweet and simple? Or tense and freaky? Light and breezy? Doomed and dark? I'd like to think of myself as a pretty light and silly person. But, in truth, I tend to be drawn to darker books. For some reason, darker and more serious books make me think harder and stay with me longer than lighthearted books.

Of course, when I sprung these new ideas on my critique group partners yesterday, I think they were a little perplexed. The consensus was that while the new tone and plot points are certainly riveting, they don't fit with the original vision of the book. My problem is that the original vision was feeling a bit boring and stale to me, and the shake up injected new life into the story. And it's exciting to think of this novel as a new, never been done before, strange, but compelling (in a train wreck kind of way) project.

The artist in me tells me to take a risk and blow it out and go with the freaky-deaky flow. But the practical side of me tells me to keep it simple, stick to the vision and finish the sappy love story. Not sure. Maybe filling my body with more guar gum, red dye and artificial carmel coloring will give me some clarity.

- Eve


beckylevine said...

Oh, you so keep going with this. Please keep going. You may very well decide, at the end, that this isn't what you want to stay with (although I don't think so), but you need to see where it goes.

This is the magic. Don't work against it.

Yay for you!

Caryn said...

That is tough, but it sounds like your subconscious is telling you that the book should go in this direction. If you find it more interesting than the original, chances are your readers will as well. Plus, it *is* a first draft, and your deadline is self-imposed. Write it as you feel you need to, then set it aside for a good six weeks. Come back and read through it and decide if what you've got works. If the second half is suddenly darker than the first, you can always go back and add hints and foreshadowing to what comes later, working the two int together.

This sounds really interesting! Best of luck with it.

Disco Mermaids said...

Thank you Becky and Caryn! I've been working on the sappy-esque love story for 1.5 years, so I felt a little married to it (okay, pun intended).

But after re-reading Laini Taylor's blog posts about first drafts and revision, I remembered that I did NOT take a vow, I'm not contractually bound to the original plot, and I can venture off by and try something crazy if I want to!

Plus, I'm glancing at my "To Read" pile of books next to me and it includes:

"Breathe My Name" by RA Nelson
"Lessons From a Dead Girl" by Jo Knowles
"Unwind" by Neal Shusterman
"On Death and Dying" by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Hmm...wonder where my head's at these days.


Katie said...

Eve, I'm torn on this because Laini seems to say that you should stick with your original WIP.

But I have kinda sorta faced this before. I can see why she'd advise you to hang in there with your original idea, because an ADDer like me might end up changing the entire plot for the rest of my life, and never finish anything.

Hmmm...tough one. I would have agreed with you switching over to the dark side, until I read her blog. Ugghh I don't know. I am facing a similar challenge and I have decided to embrace the switch. good luck! It sounds like you at least have two strong ideas - and that might be the hardest part!

Christy Raedeke said...

No question: I say go dark and freaky if that's where your fingers are taking you. The outline on your dry-erase board will always be there if you need to go back to it, but this kind of creative inspiration is fleeting. Capture it while you can and sort it out at the end!

Disco Mermaids said...

Hi guys!

Yes, Katie, I realized after the fact that I was referring to another post of Laini's, that I have bookmarked, about revision and how we are not married to anything we are writing...until it's in print, on the shelves, of course.

It made me feel better because the OCD side of my personality was forcing me to stay with the original idea at all costs. After re-reading Laini's advice (which I often do), I remembered that stories can veer off into new territory and that shouldn't scare us if it feels right.

Sorry for the confusion!

As an update since I wrote that post...I seem to have found a happy medium between the sap and the dark side that is working! Yay!


Disco Mermaids said...

Since I haven't heard anything about your new idea, all I'm going on is what's here. And I think Laini's right about being tempted by new and shiny ideas, which is the topic of this post. The revision issue is a whole 'nother beastie!

But there was nothing simple, light, or breezy about your original only feels that way cuz you know the story backwards and forwards by now.

Again, all I'm going on is how excited you were (we all were!) by your original idea...which means your first-time readers will probably see it the same way.

Of course, maybe this new idea is how the book shoulda been all along.

Ahh...the uncomplicated life of being an artist.

- Jay

Disco Mermaids said...

Okay, okay, I think when Laini mentioned not being sucked in by "new and shiny ideas" she was referring to new story ideas (meaning completely new stories), right? I mean, totally new books, right?

I think, at least I gleaned, from her most recent post, that completion of the current story is what's important...that what the story is really "about" doesn't necessarily come into focus right away.

So, being tempted by "new and shiny" ideas is okay if it's still within the same book you are working on. No? I think her advice to the struggling young writer was focusing on completion of the novel, rather than abandoning it for another project.

I may be wrong. Suffice it to say that however Laini's advice is interpreted, it is ALWAYS helpful to me, I always feel better after reading it, and am comforted by the fact that I'm not alone in my creative process.

And I guess my original idea (which is still the heart of the story) started to get stale, primarily because it's a story that's been done before...and I needed to find a different spin on it. Which hopefully I've done now! And for some reason, I'm kind of digging the creepy vibe.

Stay tuned. I'll probably change my mind in 5 minutes.


ejgriffin said...

I'm just coming across the blog from Jay's myspace. Honestly, it couldn't have happened at a better time!

I am working a several projects as well and have experienced similar pitfalls. What was once a well crafted, coming-of-age story grew stale for me after a month of hard work. So, I returned to a dark, parnormal fantasy novel I had shelved earlier because, quite frankly, it's undertaking scared the crap out of me. Still does. However, despite the fear I find myself drawn to this story much more than the other. Like it needs to be told now. Coming-of-age stories are timeless, this one has a sense of immediacy I can't really ignore.
My solution? I keep both documents open and work between the two. If I am stuck with the fantasy, I fall back on the other and am generally able to redirect myself and pull out of the slump.
Follow your gut. Perhaps, it will take you to a whole new place that allows for the pieces to become two individual entities.

Katie said...


I think you are correct about your interpretation of new and shiny ideas. I think Laini meant to discourage new and different stories. She is definitely in favor of putting some new and fresh angles into your original WIP. And from someone who knows nothing... I'd say, just follow your heart and don't worry about what any of us says :-)

If Laini only knew we are all discussing her like the great Wizard of Oz - ha! ha! (which she kinda is)

and since Jay and Robin both love your concept, I'm sure we all will too!! Hurry up and finish the darn thing!

Laini Taylor said...

Oh Eve, I so sympathize -- it's at times like these that I spend too much time daydreaming that I had the ability to stop time so the risk-taking didn't feel so. . . risky! I don't know what to tell you, but the weird new direction certainly sounds intriguing! Hey. . . whoa! I just read the comments and I'm all over there! tee hee hee! So let me clarify: Yeah, I think you shouldn't get lured away to a new project altogether, but yeah, I also think you should give your project room to grow and find itself, and sometimes it isn't what you expect it to be! You might also go down this path and think EGAD! What have I done! And then hatefully undo it all -- I have done that!! But in general I think the creative process is kind of like a dialogue between you and your creation: you tell it something, then it tells you something, and on and on, and in the end it's a compromise that's often not all close to your original outline. Sticking to an outline can be death. It can make for one stilted, forced-feeling book.

Ah, I don't know! I just wish you all the best. Sending you mental red licorice and diet coke!

P.S. Mermaids! In draft 2 of Silksinger I decided to go with a Disco Mermaids word verification word as my villain's name! I think I'll have to put it into my acknowledgments page!

HUKUTA said...


Don't know you, but am impressed with the momentum and enthusiasm you've generated here.

I've been a lifelong writer (first journal and short stories, then screenplays) but have always been too intimidated to start a novel.

Just curious. Did the idea you're working on feel like a stroke of genius (in other words, you've waited 'til this point in your life to have your greatest idea ever) or was it more a determination to finally finish one of the countless projects you started and stopped?

Also, I'd love to hear more about how you determined your self-imposed deadline, etc.

I'm starting a website where people can post story ideas, log lines for screenplays, chapters, etc. and get feedback from other writers. Perhaps one day you can post your work on that sight and get some (valuable, hopefully) feedback.

Good luck!


Good luck!

Debby G said...

Honestly, if I'd been working on a project for a year and a half and was a few weeks from finishing it, I'd stay the course and save my desire to write in a different tone for the next book. And also, I think you'd be wise to listen to your critique group who've read the manuscript rather than people like moi who haven't.

I'm sure you know there's great value in seeing a manuscript through to its end. Why not finish it in the style you originally intended, and then if you feel it doesn't work, revise it in the new, dark tone?

I hope you don't hate me now for this advice that seems to go against the other posters' advice!

I was in a weekly critique group for years with seven other talented writers. The weekly critique group helped us all improve as writers, and over time most in the group became outstanding writers. Four of us finished our manuscripts. Of those four, two of us had our books published, one never listened to the critique group's advice and sent out her flawed manuscript to agents and couldn't get an agent, and the other person who finished her manuscript (a manuscript I love) is too scared to submit it to agents. The other four people in the group, as far as I know, have been revising their manuscripts for years and years and years and have never finished them. Given that half our group of talented writers never finished their manuscripts, I worry when a writer is close to finishing a manuscript but decides to change course on it first.


Disco Mermaids said...

Whoa! The Great Oz has spoken!
"Sticking to an outline can be death..."
I'm going to make that into a giant neon sign and tack it above my writing desk.

Such good advice here. I knew asking the blog readers would yield great answers. It always does! Such different opinions, but helpful "nuggets" in each one of them. Who needs therapy, man??

To answer Hukuta's question, yes, this idea did feel like a "stroke of genius" up until the point when my critique group suggested that maybe I needed some straightjacket time to calm me down (not exactly what they said, but I could tell that's what they meant). Kidding. Sort of. :)

The coming of age tale is timeless, and it's been done sooo many ways, it's difficult to imagine there's a new spin on it. But my story has an unusual twist, and while I thought that twist was enough to set it apart from the pack, a family member read it the other day and said, "Booo-ring!" And he was right!

This new idea seemed to fix that problem, was in line with the characters, and really excited me. What I need to figure out now is...does this new creepy vibe thing take away from the original love story, or enhance it?

I guess time will tell (25 days, to be exact). Or at least, my critique group will tell me!

Thanks for all the thoughts, guys. I am re-reading them constantly.


Disco Mermaids said...

And another thing...

To answer Hukuta's other question:

The self-imposed deadline is for three reasons:
1- Wanted to test myself and see if I could finish a draft under an insane deadline, just for fun.
2- It's been 18 months of work, and my agent really wants to read a whole draft, not bits and pieces.
3- I've researched and re-worked the first 1/3 so many times, it was time to finally just jump in and complete a working draft. I write much better once I have a whole "crappy" draft to work from.

Okay, four reasons. The fourth being that I wanted an excuse to sit in my PJ's, unshowered, subsisting on only Diet Coke and red licorice for an entire month. Kind of like "Supersize Me" only more like "SuperCaffeineate Me."

I'm not joking. Those are my real reasons.


Anonymous said...

Evie, I have one word for you: medical school. O.k., that was two words, but I think you get my drift. And if you don't, well then, I'll spell it out for you, using lots and lots of commas. You don't have to stick to the original plan, especially if it doesn't make you happy. I like the new creepy aspects of the story. Unless you've changed what they are since we talked three days ago. Go with what you're feeling now. Lamy

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Eve! I don't know why this book popped into my head while reading about your potentially creepy new angle, but if you haven't read it, it's a cool, romantic, creepy supernatural YA with a coming-of-age story in it too:

A Certain Slant of Light

Can't remember the author, but I really loved it. It may not even be relevant to mention it here, but there you have it. Cheers! Hope the writing is going well!

jenni said...

I keep thinking about the comment from Laini Taylor "...the creative process is kind of like a dialogue between you and your creation...." And it made me think of the story in the Bible of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day. And Him walking today. No matter which way you go, Eve, it's great and encouraging that you're continuing on.

Anonymous said...

At the very least this is a fascinating experiment. The writers in your critique group who know you and your writing habits and know the book think this isn't a great idea while most of those who've read this blog think it's a wonderful idea.

L.A. Buttinski

Disco Mermaids said...

Who are these "Buttinski" folks? Love them! And you're not butting in, I asked, right?

I seem to be getting a half and half reaction to this new creepy direction. About 50% of you out there say "Yes" and 50% "No."

This same thing happened with my first (and only) novel when I was at the same point I am now, and the SAME family member read it and said, "Nah, kinda boring." Then we came up with a "brilliant" plan to fix the boring-ness and bring the story to a whole 'nother level in terms of "bigness."

About half the people who looked at it said, "Yes!" and about half stood there with their eyes glazed over, with that look that says, "Um, in-ter-esting."

I ended up going to the dark side with that book, and I'm really glad I did. It really brought everything together and made for a more satisfying story.

Of course, that book hasn't sold yet. So, I'm not sure what that means.