Sunday, 26 April 2009

Running To Stand Still - Where I'm At

Running To Stand Still is the working title of my novel. I'm crap at naming things, and any title that isn't 'The Something' or 'Thoughts on Something' usually comes from a song title which seems appropriate. It will be changed eventually, especially as it doesn't really fit the story anymore.

In broad strokes, Running To Stand Still is the story of three friends who go on a road trip to try and figure out their place in the world. There's more to it than that, but I'm saving the plot description for another post. I know that's a bit backwards, but it's more useful for me to lay out where I am and where I need to go right now.

Running To Stand Still started life thanks to NaNoWriMo. In case you don't know, NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month) is a challenge you set yourself to write a 50,000 novel during the month of November. That boils down to 1,667 words a day. The whole idea is to force you to stop thinking about writing and actually do it, and also to help you silence your inner editor (who you really don't want around during a first draft). It's a really useful thing, and something I'd recommend to anyone who has the time.

I went into NaNo last year which an idea of how Running To Stand Still was going to start, hoping that once I'd burnt through that the story would keep going, and it did. To a point. At the end of November, I had gotten through the set-up, the incident that triggers the main plot, the gathering of the characters and some wacky adventures (plus three litres of whiskey, but that's beside the point). What I didn't have was any idea of where to go from there. I knew what my ending was going to be, but no idea of how to get from here to there.

And that's where I've been since. I've stalled in a major way, and no matter how much I thought about it I couldn't figure out how to continue the story. It's only recently that I've managed to figure out a way forward. It involves a pretty big overhaul of the start, but to be honest that was probably coming anyway.

My main problem was a lack of urgency. My characters joined up, went around the country for a while, and then randomly came to this big revelation and the plot ended. I've fixed this by making Greg, my main character, 29, and scared of the prospect of being 30 and not really having done anything with his life. That way I have a deadline ever looming on the horizon, pushing my characters onward.

I was also fighting against the romantic subplot that was brewing in the background against my wishes. Greg and one of the secondary main characters Sally had a brief thing a few years in the past, and as I wrote I realised that they still had feelings for each other. For some reason I was dead set against it, mainly because it was so bloody cliche. Of course, some things are cliche for a reason, and I've come to my senses on that front. In fact, it ties quite nicely into the resolution of the main plot in a way which could only have come about organically.

So with those two major problems resolved, and a few new ideas for what they could do on their road trip, I'm almost ready to jump back into it. I'm going to write up a proper plot outline for the whole thing first, and then I'm going to pick up where I left off, assuming that the changes I've got planned the the first draft happened. To be honest, I'd rather start the whole thing from scratch, but if I do that I'll end up in a loop where I'm rewriting the same bit over and over and never finishing the damned story.

Wow, I've prattled on for way too long. I'll leave you there, and pick up in the week with what it's all about.


  1. Good for you! It's a very hard thing, I think, to go back to a project that has stalled and kick it back into life. I have a few half finished short stories that I know I could get done if I just had a bit more of a think about them, but I find it so hard to go back.

    It sounds like you have a top plan there, and I'm sure it'll all be flowing again very soon. :) Go Team Writing!! Or something.

  2. I did wonder for a bit if I would end up coming back to it, or if I would just lose interest before I figured out where to go. It's a story I really want to tell though, so I'm glad I'm getting back into it.