Barbie scarves

I’ve been working on this novel for ten weeks and logged maybe 10,000 useable words. That’s being generous. I’m really trying, but at this rate there is no way I will finish the first draft by June. It’ll be more like December.

Maybe it will be a novella in June.

Barbie scarfWhen my sister and I learned how to knit as kids, we were all like, “we’re gonna knit a huge afghan!” then after a while, “We’re making scarves,” or “Mom, are these big enough to be potholders?”

Eventually we ended up with Barbie scarves. Ever since then, when a project dwindles into nothing, it’s a Barbie scarf.

Every time I think I’m going to have time to write, I get two words in and something comes up. Someone wants something. Somebody needs to get wiped.

I’m not just talking about real life thwarters. My characters all seem to be tangling up the yarn, adding rows, dropping stitches, sending the story in directions I didn’t intend for it to go. I know, I’m supposed to follow the story, not dictate it. But it’s been such slow going– sometimes it takes all day to write a couple hundred words. I don’t want to think I’ve wasted any of this time writing Barbie scarves!

Anyway, the plan for week 10 is to keep plugging away at the plot. Up until now I’d been spending a lot of time with the main character, but the focus is beginning to shift to the others, and two of them in particular are telling me they are not who I thought they were.

I made more 3×5 cards, one for each of them, outlining:

  • Her goal/desires/problem to solve
  • Cross purposes: How does achieving her goal put her at odds with other characters?
  • Obstacles: how can I impede her?
  • What seemingly bad things end up being beneficial?
  • What seemingly good things end up being a curse?
  • What does someone else have/do/get that she thinks she wants?

It’s in working through these goals and problems that the characters’ motives and personalities are becoming clearer. And they are completely different than who I thought they were or should be.

A bit like life, I guess.

Does this happen to everyone? What do you do– follow the new trail, and let your characters tell it their way? Write all the scenes and publish a “choose your own adventure” novel? Or just go back to knitting?


4 thoughts on “Barbie scarves”

  1. I usually set up the characters, but I always give them room to define themselves. More or less, they have goals and dreams. I’ll give a very broad archetype. From there, they’ll let me know how how to accomplish the goal.

    I always find just writing works. I’ve had times where I suddenly think of an awesome plot point earlier in the story, so I write as if it happened, and make a note to include it during revision. But it’s always harder to start running again after you’ve stopped to see where you’ve been.

    Keep it up! Don’t start knitting! Unless I get a scarf out of it. Would love a scarf during this endless winter.


  2. I am notorious about getting caught up in where the story is headed, re-writing, re-thinking and so on, and it seemed that nothing was EVER done. I had all these great ideas and pretty much never finished anything.

    I received some very good advice not too long ago, from a multi-published, award winning novelist and poet. He said, “the first 2, maybe 3 drafts of your novel are nothing more than notes. It won’t be until the 4th draft that your “real” story takes off.”

    My first thought: that’s too frickin’ much work! I gotta re-write this thing maybe four times??? Then I thought again and it made perfectly good sense.

    So, my new writing strategy is just to get the story DOWN. Don’t try to pretty it up, or fix problems or even impose structure because until I see where this story lands, it’s nigh impossible to organize and structure it.

    Enjoy the freedom of creativity.

    Then the real work begins.


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