Clouds but no storm

I think I’ve worked out why my storm chasing novel has stalled. It’s bugged me for ages because I’ve got all the characters and an outline of all the things I want to happen to them but when I sit down to write it I become disengaged really quickly and struggle to put anything down on paper.

And now I know what it is: in all my planning I’ve somehow managed to leave out all the character arcs. I’ve got all the outside events plotted out in a way that should rise to a very exciting climax but I don’t have any notes on how these events will affect my characters internally…you know…that really important part of a story that actually engages the reader.

Whoops.

Minor oversight there. Especially since from the start I’ve wanted to make this a character-driven story.

This is probably something that’s generally been missing from all my writing up to now. I tend to get so caught up in creating new and amazing worlds and exciting and terrifying events that I forget that all the emotion is still just inside my head. Not that it’s completely absent or anything. I just need to put a whole lot more work into bringing out my characters’ internal journeys to make my stories resonate better on a human level.

This means that I’m going to have to go back and write histories and life stories for all my storm chasing characters and fill in all the stuff that readers of the story won’t ever see but that I need in order to bring the internal worlds of my characters to life. Only then will my actual story be able to take off. Or, in meteorological terms, the atmosphere has enough moisture and wind shear for a severe storm, but the convectional lift is missing and the clouds just aren’t getting enough punch.

It’s surprising how much writing this story feels like trying to lift a couple of tons of air. The end result will be amazing, though.

Plenty of nice clouds but not enough for a storm.
Plenty of nice clouds but not enough for a storm.

Is good enough?

I’m currently editing a manuscript for someone who shall henceforth be called Friendie MacQuaintance. It’s a cracking good story but when I had my editor conversation before starting, Friendie said I should just do a polish. They just wanted it good enough to publish so that they could start other projects. Friendie knew that “this story won’t make me as a writer” so they were content with just finishing it up as easily and quickly as possible.

I was shocked because it had never occurred to me to do just good enough when writing. Even these blog posts get a couple of edit passes. Although, that might just be my OCD. Friendie’s story is pretty darn good as it is, but a few more drafts could really make it shine.

Of course, having said that, Friendie is a published author and I am not. So is good enough the way to go?

To test this idea, I opened up one of my many, many half-finished projects and gave it a quick scan, trying to imagine sending it out into the world for publishing. I only got to page two before the flinching got too severe to continue. Clearly, “good” is not enough for me.

The question is, am I being too uptight about making my writing perfect or is this just an example of two different author approaches, both of which will work for different people?