Does it matter?
A few weeks ago, I wrote about one of the fears when writing a book that makes unreasonable psychological demands of the author – that someone else will get there first. The other fear for me is whether I can answer this question about the book: Does it matter?
Does it have to?
For me, yes. I’m not going to get all existential about it, though, and delve into what even the question means. Matters to who(m – pedant)? How do you decide if it matters? Define your terms, man! Actually… no.
It has to matter to me first and foremost. Which means it has to be more than ‘just’ a story. But let’s wind back a bit first… it has to be first and foremost a story. That’s what my current edit is about. If the first draft is finding out what the story is (believe me, I wasn’t sure for a long time…), or telling yourself that story, the second is about telling the story to someone else. And doing it better. A lot better. And – this, I suspect, is the real bit – getting out of the way of the story.
Seriously, you would not believe the amount I can cram into one book. Cryptic references that almost nobody else will get. Oblique parallels between different cultures and societies. Specific words and phrases that mean way more than anyone is going to twig. All of which means that in my first draft, way too much of it was my voice. Yup, pretty much all of what I just listed off. It’s not that I don’t think that’s fascinating and everything, but it’s not Natalie’s story, and that’s what I’m writing. Her story. Not mine. (Note to self: got that yet? – and yes, just take that other line out that you liked so much. Or the paragraph. Actually, that whole scene isn’t actually doing anything, is it? Honestly, it can go. Highlight. Control-X.)
So is that it? It’s just a story?
Not for me. It can be enough, though. Some stories ‘just’ entertain us. Nothing wrong with that and I’ve read and enjoyed many books that are not trying to be anything more. Others are written in a way that challenges us with the writing itself. Fine, if that’s your thing.
It has to be a story I think needs to be told. There are so many that could be told. Someone else can write them, and I’ll be happy to read them. But the ones I need to write? – I know them when I see them. They just out at me when I read or hear or see something. There are enough other fragments of stories kicking around in my head that I know I’m not going to end up sitting down and writing, but there are four that I’m pretty sure are going to make it into a full blown story. Because I think they tell us something about ourselves. Which starts with – they tell me something about me that I need to figure out.
What did I need to figure out in the current novel? Ah, that would be telling. But don’t worry. I know. And now I am busy taking that back out again and letting Natalie tell her story. Because it’s way better than anything I could tell you.
Will anyone else care? I hope so. But I’ll write the story either way. And that’s because I also know why I am writing it. As Simon Sinek says, you have to ‘Start with Why’ you are doing something. Once you know that, you’ll figure the rest out. And that’s a lot of fun.