A tale of two dilemmas

yellow house

Paula’s Post #41 –  Happy Canada Day! Coming to you live from Drumheller, Alberta.  In other words, writing on the road. Again.

You may not have noticed, but last Tuesday, for the first time ever, I missed my usual 5writers blog post.

Damn!

An amazing 40 straight posts before my streak was broken. But we’re trained from infancy to pick ourselves up and start all over again, so here I am, picking myself up and starting all over again.

Perhaps a few of you noticed my absence and feared that our Whistler retreat had proved too much for me? That at the end of the week I’d folded my tent, (metaphorically speaking), and faded into the night, my fragile ego crushed?

Not exactly.

While that scenario has a certain dramatic elegance, the truth is that in my life right now, I’ve got not one but two major dilemmas to solve.

Maybe you can help?

Dilemma One – Post-Retreat Rewrites.

Problem: How to revise my YA novel in such a way as to make the characters and plot more compelling (not to mention fathomable) for my readers?

My problem is one of story and how to tell it.

Never at a loss for ideas, my novel has action and plot twists coming out the ying-yang, but weaving everything together into a coherent storyline, told in a compelling and believable fashion another thing. A thing called: my post-critique nightmare.

In other words, my problem is not so much the middle as the muddle.

When I first outlined my novel, I’d originally hoped to have multiple POV characters, including some adult point of view characters. In fact, I actually wrote several ‘scenes’ featuring these POV characters, deeming them a ‘necessary evil’, to assist in revealing the ‘story’ (not only to my protagonist, but also to my readers).

But in the end, all these adult POV chapters were dumped on the cutting room floor once I read more about ‘the rules’ of YA fiction. As you YA writers know, featuring adult point of view characters appears to be a dodgy strategy at best, absolutely verboten in some schools. Kids, we’re told, don’t want to read about adults. More precisely, they don’t want to read a book told from an adult’s point of view.

So, swell. I’ve read the rule, I get it, but I still think I may have to break it. In my fast-paced YA thriller, this so called rule is posing quite a conundrum.  Right now, Kaylie, my young female protagonist, is an accomplished sixteen year old with some pretty special skills, training and talent. Her friends aren’t too shabby, either. Sure, Kaylie has a few problems,  but her biggest problem is how I’m going to get the diabolical plot I’ve concocted out of my head and into Kaylie’s.

I’m writing in first person, so once Kaylie figures out what is going on, my readers will know too. But how to help Kaylie ‘discover’ the evil conspiracy is the gist of my dilemma. Kaylie isn’t clairvoyant (not quite yet, anyway). She isn’t going to be able to just ‘divine’ the convoluted plot I’ve constructed around her. She’s going to need to work at it, and she’s going to need some help.

So, what do you think?

Should I become a daring rule breaker and sneak in those adult POV chapters I left on the cutting room floor? Or should I head back to the drawing board and completely reconstruct my whole novel in such a manner that my single POV protagonist can figure it all out, preferably sooner than later?

That, dear readers, is dilemma number one.

Dilemma Two – On the road again (i.e. the reason I missed posting last week). 

How, you ask, could I let a little thing like writing on the road break my posting streak?  That’s a very good question, for which, like the plot Kaylie is trying to deconstruct, I have a very long and complicated answer.

How else to explain how, in the last nine months, I’ve managed to post from cars, in airports, on airplanes, on the beach and even directly on my tiny little iPhone screen. Some of my best writing scribbled in darkened hotel rooms, in the middle of the night. Okay, okay, so maybe not my best, maybe just my most prolific.

But despite all my heroic abilities to meet deadlines, wherever, whenever,  I failed miserably last week.

I failed to post.

Why?

Two hours after returning from our Whistler retreat on Friday, June 21st, I packed up the dog, scooped up my husband and off we went, house hunting.

Our house is sold and must be vacated on or before the end of August. In other words, less than sixty days from today, we’re homeless. Seriously, if you thought it was fun watching we 5writers twist in the wind as our novel-in-five-months challenge ticked towards a close, you’re going to love watching the sequel:

2lawyers2homeless2months

We’re scrambling to find a house.

Er, actually more than a house: How about a country? A state? A province? A city or a town?

Seriously, we’ve got to narrow our search down. Because, for the last month, we’ve literally been all over the map. We’ve considered:

1) downsizing to Vancouver’s trendy urban core (could you live in an 800 square foot apartment?);

2) relocating to hip, literate and liberal Portland, Oregon (my hometown and home to Powell’s City of Books);

3) escaping to Whidbey Island, Washington (home to some of my favorite authors… something in that crisp Island air must nurture the writing life);

4) moving to British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan wine growing region (need I say more) and,

5) relocating to the equally beautiful, rugged Sunshine Coast, an idyllic peninsula located fifty miles north-west of Vancouver and accessible only by ferry.

We haven’t decided yet. We’re open to ideas. Why did you pick your town, and how does it suit your ‘writing life’? Oh, and if you know a house you think I’d like, leave a comment. Sooner, not later.

Tonight, I’m on the road again. This time in Drumheller, Alberta. No, not house-hunting this time. This two-day blitz trip out to Alberta and back is to visit with family. We wanted to see our grand-daughter.

And some dinosaurs.t-rex

But that’s just a sneak preview, that’s the subject of another post!

Right now, it is 12:03 am… my alarm goes off in 4 hours and 57 minutes for our early flight back to Vancouver.

I need to get back to house-hunting.

5 thoughts on “A tale of two dilemmas

  1. Love the 2lawyers2homeless2months! I mean, not the dilemma, but the phrase. Congratulations on getting your post done “on the road” again!

  2. Wow Paula have you got some decisions to make. I think you’ll figure out Kaylee’s problem easy enough (my advice, make her a naive narrator and provide the reader clues/evidence that Kaylee may not, in the moment comprehend or put together, but then that’s off the cuff since I haven’t read your ms.). On the house and home front, though, the choices. I know your timeframe is tight, but what a wonderful array of choices you have before you. Remember, if you choose a new community, you’re not stuck with it. Right now I’m hangin out on Denman Island and if I could, I’d stay here and write. We’ll see if I actually get anything accomplished this summer. But if I could live and write anywhere? Um. Probably Aquitaine. That’d be in the south of France. But I’d take any one of your choices in a NY minute, too. Wish I had that much freedom.

  3. I think your reasons for missing a post are pretty darn good! We faced a similar situation when we sold our first house (well, except for all the options!), and it was a scramble. I dreaded the thought of not finding something in time and having to put everything in storage and stay in a hotel.

    POV is a tough one. I had to cut back on it in one of my WIPs, and it was hard to decide who got the axe. Is one of your adults a character that younger readers would like? Sort of a “Man, I wish my mom/dad/whoever was that cool”? Or maybe one they would love to hate and root against? Maybe POV scenes for them would be okay for the readers?

  4. Thanks! I like your suggestions about my multiple POV dilemma’s… I’ll take a long look at the whole manuscript with that in mind, just as soon as I sort out … the other pesky dilemma, – house-hunting. I, too, fear we may have to consider the storage option.

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