Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pitfalls -- Amalgam

Hi folks, this month I writing a series about creative pitfalls. Last week I touched on the pitfall of formula. This week's pitfall is called amalgam. I see this in published books sometimes and in my own work (sigh).  This is when a content creator brings together a mishmash of ideas -- good ideas -- and then fails to synthesize them into something cohesive. Cough, cough, movie analogy -- Cloud Atlas. I love you, Lana, Andy and Tom. David Mitchell wrote an amazing book, but you three didn't synthesize this and yikes. I do give you props for ambition.

How do you fall into the pitfall of amalgam? You aren't trusting your good ideas, and hence you've gone into the work of others in search of beefy bits to give your story some ooomph. You set out to write a classic regency romance novel. Sparks fly between Jane and her Mr. Bingley. It's innovative and working. Then you read this really great book about time travel, and low and behold, a thieving time traveller -- think Eric Bana -- shows up in your novel, in search of a cursed star sapphire and he seduces your Jane.

Oh, then you read a great conspiracy thriller and decide to  mix in some political intrigue about the medieval masons. Jane is the last in a line of powerful steampunk wizards and must kill Mr. Bingley to prove her loyalty to the guild and take down that thieving time traveller, because the cursed star sapphire is part of a magic scepter used to keep Underworld demons at bay. This is not turning out to be a very satisfying romance.

You've written 150K words of your book with no end in sight, and you don't really know what your book is about anymore. You flail around, and wonder what happened. You shove this manuscript into the box at the back of closet that already has 10 other manuscripts in it -- all failed attempts. The good news is all this failure is really a good thing. You need persistence to succeed as a writer.

The bad news is this is not a pile of genius that is overlooked. You have created a pile of a lack of confidence. How are you ever going to get on track? Well, stop being so hard on yourself and try having some fun.  Relax.  Your best content comes from your emotional core.  You obviously like a lot of different kinds of books and mashup isn't an impossible thing, but you are the glue that is going to make it work.  You have to take control of your writing life, what do you want? Focus. Classic regency romance? Do that. Something else?  Fine, but define it and stick to YOUR vision. 

At the end of the day, I 'm not saying to don't mix elements.  But if you do, you need to synthesize them and you need to own them. Don't let all the work of others bleed into your book. Be inspired. Be bolstered. But don't be a book cannibal.

So pull out that manuscript that haunts you and start cutting out that bloody mess that has infected your great book. You have always felt there is a good book in there. Believe in your vision. Add in your unique slant. Synthesize.  Do it. Climb out of the pit. See you next week with more writer pitfalls.

This week's doodle is called: Blue Seagull.

I'm closing up with a quote for your pocket.
Some things are destined to be -- it just takes us a couple of tries to get there. Jessica Rowley Pell Bird  as J.R Ward


Leandra Wallace said...

"Don't be a book cannibal"- Yikes! That sounds scary! And a nice doodle, I like seagulls. Oddly enough I saw some early this spring at a JayC parking lot- and I live in Indiana!

MollyMom103 said...

It does sound scary. In fact it sounds like a good book title.

I like seagull too. The look so awkward on land but not in the sky.

Candilynn Fite said...

Ha! I love it. "Book Cannibal" When I read that part of your post, it touched a chord in me. I wonder if some writers (me!) do this because we want to include all of the greatest elements in one book because we think it's the only opportunity we're ever going to get. So why not mix up everything we've got and cram it into one novel. Wow. Now that I've typed the thought out, it makes sense. Yikes. This is what I did years ago with my YA historical (147k). Mystery, supernatural, history, YA, humor, romance. It does haunt me, for sure. Maybe one day. ;)

MollyMom103 said...

Hi Candi! I was really circling an idea. And you are right there. I've done this too. I think help to pare down those ideas.

Vijaya said...

That was my first novel, Molly. Time travel, historical, romance, betrayal, political assassinations, industrial accidents and more!!!

You hit the nail on the head about synthesizing all the elements into a cohesive whole. Great post.

Mirka Breen said...

Some write by the seat of their pants, making it up as they go. The story that doesn't know where it's going is a serious pitfall, if you work this way. Careful, thoughtful, outlining can go a long way to ameliorate this.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi Vijaya, I think you could have all those elements in a book but it would be a superior hat trick.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi, Mirka, I think you are right about outline. I'm a big fan of outlining, but I think there are some exceptions. The "seat of their pants" method works for some folks. Outlining just never going to be a tool admit using. Of course they will swear up and down that they don't use outlines and follow that up with a need to follow some classic story like Cinderella to get all that pesky plot stuff out of the way. I do think following a classic plot may be construed as a form of outlining, but but, hey, we are the myth makers.

Gina Gao said...

This is a great post! It's always important to put things together the right way.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi, Gina, thanks for dropping in. It's totally alchemy to find those transformative combinations that create a new unified enity.