the biology of cuteness and starting over

Did you know that cuteness is a biological construct? The over-sized head, the big wide puppy-dog eyes, cute little button-nose – children are born like that so their parents are inclined not to eat them for breakfast. It enhances the instinct to bond and create a loving attachment to the child. If babies were not born cute, the human race would get to just about the six-week stage where colic sets in.

That is something my character Callie might say. She was so much fun to write, but I have to lose her I think. My novel is too big! She could have her own novel she’s so cool – she was an assistant curator at a zoo and took care of elephants. She was insanely beautiful but didn’t even care, with her hair tied up and her standard zoo khakis – like the love interest in an Indiana Jones movie. She was fiercely intelligent but a terrible housewife. She had two funny and lovable children (who get to stay in the novel). Maybe she will have her own novel one day, because she could. Or maybe she’ll live in a short story. Because unfortunately for them, Danny and Hannah’s mom needs to become a religious zealot. So it was said, and so it was done.

I remember reading somewhere that you can’t learn to write a novel any other way than to just try to write one. So that’s what I’ve been doing these past few months, I suppose – man, like eight months! Novel practice. And I’ve learned quite a bit.

See, I was writing my chapters in short-story mode still, and chapters of a novel are not short stories. They function very differently. It took me a while, but I know that now. I think I’ve got it figured out… think. Though if I really had it figured out, I wouldn’t have to keep re-figuring it out.

I’ve chopped my seven POV characters down to four. (I know, SEVEN??? What the hell was I thinking???) Four is even a lot, but their stories are very closely tied into each other, so I think I can make it work. I want to make it work, because I’m in love with all four of them, and they can’t exist without each other. I’ve also learned, in laying out these new chapters, that I do have one prominent character of the four. And the way I had the novel structured before, he didn’t even get his own chapter until chapter five! That can’t work!

It’s not at all a waste though. Not at all! Eight months of practice means that I have the story very well sketched out at this point. I have plot points and scenes that have inspired further plot points and scenes, I have chapters in all states of finished-ness, all the way through the end. It won’t all get used, and the ending could very probably change again, as it has already changed five times so far. But basically, I have a novel, and now I just have to put it together. Actually, I have about five novels, and I’ll save the leftovers for scraps to use later 😉

It’s just a little disheartening, having spent eight months and then starting over. But hell, maybe I could even call that my my shitty first draft? You know, the first draft that goes straight down the crapper? Or at the very least, a .75 draft. Yeah, maybe that’s what I was doing. I think I would feel better if I could pretend that was what I was doing. You can humor me, maybe.

No real word or chapter count yet at this point. I’m still in re-organizing mode. I have all of the chapters written, and none of them at the same time. How is that for progress? 😉