I Told My Characters Not to Fall in Love and They Did It Anyway (Midweek Novel Update #1)


Since first starting my book in 2012, I’ve learned a lot about the creative process. I’ve learned a lot about how an idea transforms over time, if you give it the chance to grow. I’ve learned a lot about what it means to fall in love with a story, so much so that you’re willing to let that story shift and change so it can become, well, better, even if it’s nothing even resembling your original plot.

Kind of funny, considering the story of the book-that-currently-has-no-title started out in a setting that (is this cliché enough for you?) did not allow people to fall in love. At all. Ever. Punishable by death? Eh. Sort of.

Actually, technically, the story started out as a semi-utopian sci-fi something-or-other with no plot structure and cringe-worthy dialogue, but what book doesn’t?

For the record, I don’t consider myself a particularly talented (or accomplished) writer. That’s why I spend most of my time with NR giving you all writing advice instead of talking about my own work.

But I’ve done some stats reviews recently, and it turns out you all (trying to stop myself from y’alling, it’s hard) apparently like reading about my novel-writing shenanigans. So I’ve made a decision.

Once a week, on Wednesdays, you get a novel update on our blog. So from now on, you can celebrate Hump Day with a blog post about my book, even if I haven’t made any progress, even if I am fighting with it, even if it kills me. You’re welcome.

So where am I now in the novel-conquering process? Struggling, big time. I like to be as transparent as possible when I do talk about my book (aside from giving away major plot points, in case a miracle happens and you someday get to read it in print). I think that’s important, for authors, for aspiring writers, anybody. Writing can be fun, it can be very rewarding, and everyone deserves praise for at least trying. But it’s hard.

Some days even I don’t feel like writing. I spend more time disliking my work than I do being proud of it. But that’s part of the process, I think. At some point you get past that, and you have a finished product and all that struggling seems worth it by then.

I’m not past that yet, though. I’m far from finishing my product, and as a Wrimo veteran, this is difficult for me. This book has gone through three Wrimos now (July 2014, November 2014, April 2015) and it’s still in fragments and shards. I know where I’m going with it. I’m just taking my time in filling the gaps.

What’s hardest for me isn’t the actual writing; it’s the story. If you’ve been following me for at least the past few months, you know I’ve made a lot of changes recently. In January I decided to start the book over completely … and again last month. This most recent change is, I’m certain, headed in the right direction. But I’m worried. Why?

Because two characters end up falling in love. And that’s not what I wanted them to do.

Characters have minds of their own, they really do. The narrator literally starts off telling the story with the line, “This is not a love story.” It’s not, I guess. I think every story has to have a little romance of some kind or readers get bored, or it doesn’t seem realistic. But that wasn’t my plan for my main characters. Nothing ever goes according to plan when you’re trying to write a book.

The way these characters express their love to each other is a bit out of the ordinary, because these kids are trained and manipulated not to register their own emotions (they’re too distracting, or so they are told). So love is confusing and, while not forbidden (thank God) widely misunderstood. Imagine two people feeling attracted to each other but never having felt that way about anybody before. Sort of like that.

Companionship in this society is complicated. A group of characters end up having to work as a team to overcome a few obstacles (we’re talking literal obstacles, more specifically, fire, darkness, trees) which obviously won’t go well at first, since they’re students, the best of the best, only accustomed to working alone. What are friends? No one has any clue what’s going on and I kind of like that. But I’ve been fighting this whole time to keep character A and character B apart, and they’re just not having it.

No, it’s not a love story. Because our narrator has read a lot of love stories, and hers isn’t anything like those books.

Too bad she doesn’t have a mom to help her sort out all these confusing feelings. Her dad may or may not have sent her away on behalf of “curious circumstances” and, despite prodding over the years, has never explained the details.

Love is confusing. You have been warned.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.

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