notebook #4 for my current wip

I’ve been playing with characters for a new YA story since April. About six weeks ago, I started to play with a draft. Last month at writing group, Ruth helped me think through the structure of my story. It was giving me fits and we finally realized it’s a story told from two voices — and with flashbacks. Ruth insisted that I let Krums, a teenage boy, into my head to help tell the story.

It was painful, but I did it. For a month I’ve had a teenage guy talking to me, telling me his side of things. At one point, this showed up in my notebook (it’s from Sophia) —

Straight from Soph’s heart and  into my notebook.

Last Thursday our writing group met again. Ruth and I had the following conversation (She’s an actual person…this isn’t a conversation with myself. Here’s her blog for proof — but don’t be fooled by the sweet persona. She is more like an evil drill sergeant.):

Vicious Ruth: You are writing a love story.

Me: I. Am. Not.

Incessant Ruth: You are too. You have two main characters, a boy and a girl, and a couch. It’s a love story.

Me: Is not.

Brutal Ruth: If you want it to be more than fluff you have to dig into their back stories. The stuff you wrote about Sophia’s past was powerful. There’s more there.

Me: No there’s not. That was the only horrible thing that happened in her life.

Ruthless Ruth: You’re lying. It’s not going to be easy, but you know there’s more there.

Me: Major eye roll. It’s not a love story.

Atrocious Ruth: It is a love story, but it’s more. You need to dig into Krums’ history too.

Me: I let him into my head, what more do you want?

Relentless Ruth: You need to listen to before to understand who he is now. And I’m not surprised you found him to be sensitive.

Me: Sigh. Then a bigger sigh.

Unreasonable Ruth: Just write the back story. It doesn’t mean it’ll be in the book, but I think you need to know it so you can write the kind of story you want it to be.

Me: What if I don’t want to know their histories. I’m afraid it’ll hurt too much.

Sinister Ruth: Then don’t do it and write a fluffy love story.

Me: It’s not a love story.

Ghastly Ruth: It is a love story, but you can make it more. Just let them tell you their back stories.

Me: Maybe I’ll give up.

Why-I-listen-to-her Ruth: No you won’t. You can’t leave them where they are. Besides you need to write this story. Not only that, but you can write this story. First you need to dig into Krums and Sophia’s pasts, though.

That night, after writing group, at 11:18 pm, I started a notebook just to record Krums & Soph’s back stories. Here are the first two pages (and probably the only pages I’ll share out of it).

First page of writer’s notebook #4.
Either write now or write later…I might as well get started!

 Less than a week of listening to their back stories and I’m already gaining more of a vision for the draft. I can see how the past and the present are woven together. I think I might have the smartest, extremely brilliant, and amazing crit partner on the face of the earth. (Of course, she had to be a little atrocious first…but I imagine that’s what makes her so remarkable.)

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  1. From Relentless Ruth–why aren't you writing the story instead of writing about writing the story! Sheesh…light a fire under it writer-friend! I'm waiting for drafts…. 🙂
    Glad our talk helped. I can be pushy–but I still maintain that I'm right on this.
    And thanks for making me look so wise (that is REAL talent!).

  2. Thank you for sharing all this. It's illuminating for me to hear from a writer about the very difficult process that you experience. Ruth (the difficult one) sounds like just the one to help you get into shape, or at least get the story into shape. I'm always looking for quotes about writing with my students & this one seems apt for what you just communicated: “There's nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”  ~Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith Best wishes with that love story!

  3. Okay, I'm chuckling because I watched the banter between you. And after reading about Em, I can't wait to see what this love story entails.
    I appreciate your deep questions and the reflections from the group. By talking about what we've written, we are growing in our writing.
    Love the adjectives 🙂

  4. Loved the critical banter. This is so helpful. It's like building a house with a basement. You may not see it, but it holds the house up. It would be faster to build without it, but it wouldn't be as good.

  5. I agree–banter is good. You never know what parts of the banter will stick and lead you on to more. Remember the Inklings!!

  6. I am fascinated by this glimpse of (the other) Ruth through your (the real Ruth's) eyes. I only know her from her sofa, but she is one of my favorite slicers to visit. I had a suspicion that she had a dark side. She has way too good of a sense of humor not to! The glimpse into your writing process is also of interest, of course. I can't wait to read this book when it is on my classroom shelves!

  7. I love when you write about your writing process—I love your bravery in sharing your writing with a group and allowing the other Ruth to be so honest with you. And I agree–I can't wait to read this novel of yours after it's published. I'll be able to say I “know” the author!