In the process of writing my thesis, I got a ten page literary analysis, a one-hundred and thirty page novella, and a ton of cookies. My thesis presentation was today and I had a small group so there were a lot of cookies left over. They were good cookies too, dark chocolate with white chocolate chips. More importantly, however, my thesis helped me become a better writer.
I started searching for a director for it almost exactly one year ago. I had just found out that my adviser wasn’t willing to do it. (Tip, before you choose an adviser ask if they are willing to help you with your thesis, if you need to do one). I had to keep telling myself take deep breaths and not panic. Eventually though, I found two great professors, Denise Despres and Laura Krugoff, who were willing to shepherd me through the process. Together we tackled issues like: “Is Mara (one of my antagonists) evil enough to murder William (the protagonist’s husband)? It was a pretty dark novella.
While I was writing it, my novella changed in all sorts of ways that I didn’t anticipate. Mara’s murdering William had been a catalyst for the rest of the plot and now I was learning that Mara wouldn’t do that. As an author my thought on that was “um, now what?” I thought I was in control; I wasn’t. My characters dictated the story, not me. If a character decided that she didn’t want do the action that starts the plot, I was just going to have to live with it.
The novella started out as a diabology based project and mutated into a police procedural, killing twenty pages of my research in the process. The original page count for it was supposed to be sixty to ninety pages but after I finished the first draft I realized that the story actually wanted to be 130 pages. So 130 pages it was.
In those 130 pages I learned a lot of things. I learned how to sit still and write (harder than it sounds), that every story needs a good villain (otherwise the hero is just sitting there), and how to give a story a life of its own. Stories are like children, sooner or later they start wanting to grow up and be independent. And as a parent/author, you’re bound to love them anyway.