I’m getting close. Every time I think I’m getting close, though, something sets me back a bit.
I’m still talking, of course, about my latest novel(la), which weighs in at a trim 61K words right now, give or take. I’ve finally got a handle on the ending, I think; now I just need to make sure that ending isn’t an island that leaves the reader going, “Wait, whuh?” Once that’s finished, it’s…well, finished.
Except, you know, for the writing.
It’s getting harder to get to the keyboard at night when I get home though. I need to stop watching as much TV as I do during dinner. It wouldn’t kill me to put food down a little faster too. (Matter of fact, it wouldn’t kill me to put down less food, which would make it go faster, and maybe I’d drop a pound or two. *Sigh*.) More discipline, less goofing off. This is how pro writers do it, after all. Suck it up, Buttercup. Just hit the keys.
The new writing method is really, really working well for me. It’s been good for me, actually, because it puts me in touch with what Dean Wesley Smith called the creative voice (as opposed to the critical voice, which is designed and exists to stop us from doing stupid things). Listening to that creative side has been a blessing, and it realigned me with the gift the Lord gave me in the first place.
I don’t say writing into the dark will be the only way I can write ever again. I don’t think that’s true at all. I think having a loose, flexible plan worked really well for me, and it helped me finish a full-length novel in something like four months while working a full-time job. So, if the novel’s complex or involves more time, I’ll likely do that – put what my kids and I call a story map together.
A story map’s just a four-part story structure with the major moments blocked in – the Inciting Incident, the First Plot Point, the First Pinch Point, the Midpoint, the Second Pinch Point, and finally, the Second Plot Point. It’s also been called things like The W-Plot structure, the Three Act structure (but the second act is cut at the midpoint), and a lot of other stuff.
Fun fact: You could also take the Hero’s journey and break it into four parts and have this map fit right over it. Funny thing about stories – they all have the same basic structure, so…yeah.
Anyway, whatever model I use will depend on the story. For the most part, since I spent so (!) much time studying story structure (the one I didn’t really get a good handle on, regrettably, was Shakespeare’s Five Act structure, or Freytag’s Pyramid), I can honestly say that when coupled with my “instincts” as writer, I can naturally develop a loose structure. If the story has problems, it’s the first thing I’ll look at for diagnosis.
So, not having to worry about that sort of thing anymore, and forbidding myself from jotting down stuff before I write it so I could outline in reverse, has been an absolute boon to my creative drive and speed. When I do pump out words, it’s never less than about 18oo words, and that usually occurs in a span of about an hour, maybe ninety minutes.
Cycling back and editing, cleaning up, and reworking the stuff I did in the last writing session has really been sweet too. I won’t say there aren’t issues with wording and grammar, or maybe even punctuation and spelling, but those are copy edits which will need to be done anyway.
For the most part, this one draft is the final draft, as the world will see it when it’s finished. I’m working hard every writing session to ensure I put my best effort out there, the strongest stuff I have as a writer right now. And that has made a huge difference. It has, like the rest of the process, been liberating. I don’t give myself permission to just throw words up on the page. If I’m struggling to write, it’s generally one of a few things.
I started in the wrong place, I took a wrong path, or I’m too far from the action. And in each case, the fix is the same: Back up a few hundred or a thousand words, read forward and do clean-up as I go, and see if the misstep jumps out at me.
I’ve experienced two of these with this story. Once I knew I was putting in too much time before the scene’s action or response, cutting the extra words got me where I wanted to be. Or backing up and re-reading what I’d written prior revealed I’d not written what was supposed to come next. Finding it or simply starting fresh fixed that in all cases.
The only thing I don’t think I’ve done with this book – though I admit, up until just this week I worried I had – is go down the wrong story path. It’s not impossible to fix, and while it might cost time and effort, sometimes it’s worth it to get to the real story the creative voice wants to tell. For me, this story unfolded just the way my creative voice wanted it to, and ties in so sweetly with the third book in this series I can’t believe the effortlessness with which it happened. No planning, no intention, just…voila.
It’s like magic. And I couldn’t be happier with this particular magic.
Soon, I’ll be calling for beta readers to help me find things like pet words, repetitive phrases, and other stuff like that. But I won’t be asking for any writerly advice – things about story arc, character, themes, and other literary crap. I’m going to let this story fly the way it is after it’s clean and packaged, because I want the world to see me as a writer, not a committee of my closest writing friends. If the world doesn’t like me, I want to hear that.
So, that’s where I’ve been. If I’m not writing the book (which I wasn’t sure would be a full novel, by the bye – I was determined to just tell the story irrespective of word count), I’m re-reading for clean-up, and if I’m not doing that, I’m getting ready to do that (or, y’know, working).
Hope all of you are well. And I wonder – should I be posting these on my author blog? Anyone have any thoughts about that?