It just clicked

It clicked.

Uncertainty has been my version of a tormented hell for the past sixteen months working on this book. Something clicked tonight and I think it is finally over.

I just spent almost two hours banging out a detailed outline for the alternate plot line for my novel. As it turns out, it is more or less a completely different novel. Many of the characters are the same or at least based on ones I wrote in the original version. But for the most part, it is quite different.

It is especially different in the fact that, from start to finish, the plot actually works. And it’s good. I genuinely believe this is a REALLY GOOD story. All of a sudden, I am feeling confident about what this book is going to be. That is a strange feeling to have. I like it.

I’m going to sleep well tonight. Even though I can’t wait to start writing and revising portions from the original version and I can’t wait to make this happen, I’m going to sleep well.

Day 343 – The importance of the “where” in writing a story

Day three hundred forty-three of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I have been working on my second book (fiction) for a couple of months now and while I am certain about the “who,” the “when” and the “what” in the story, I am completely undecided about the “where.” This is ridiculous to me, since the “who” and the “what” aspects are typically more complex. The “where” should be the easy part. For whatever reason, I keep changing my mind. So far, I have flip-flopped between three different states. And maybe starting in one state and ending in another. Or maybe three or more different states. See what I mean?

My indecision – while in the middle of writing the book – has led me to the profound understanding of how important the “where” actually is. Where the story occurs not only dictates scene background, it also dictates the voices of characters, cultural characteristics, experiences of characters, weather events, climate in general and countless nuances along the entire spectrum of details. As is the case in life, in a piece of writing the “where” touches everything.

To be undecided about location puts the writer in a position of writing sections she knows will need to be changed. Some of the writing thus becomes a string of contingencies. If happening in location A, it will be this. If happening in location B, it will be that. For instance, I wrote a colorful memory from my main character’s childhood that involved sweet grass. In the location I was imagining at that time, it worked. But if I change the location, it will have to be omitted if sweet grass is not indigenous there. This would be a minor change. However, major changes throughout the story might also have to be made.

For instance, a key thread in the plot centers around the protagonist’s ongoing efforts to flee the political and religious views of her upbringing. They are conservative, hard-core Christian views. This works very well in a location such as Alabama, but not as much in a place like Vermont. If a change in location means changing or omitting this thread in the story, well, then I’m changing my whole outline and likely resigned to writing a very different book.

The longer a writer remains in static indecision the more muddled her creative process becomes. Choose the location of your story at the same time you outline the “who,” “when” and “what.” And do your best to stick to it or you’ll end up changing far more than you anticipated.

Trust me, the “where” touches everything.

Day 294 – At least I’ll always have my imagination

Day two hundred ninety-four of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I waited all day. I waited over fourteen hours, actually. For over fourteen hours, off and on, I thought about writing. Distracted, busy, obligated to fulfill a long list of responsibilities, I had to wait. I was eager to sit down and write today, which is pretty much the norm for me. But it was another Monday I had to go to work when all I wanted to do was stay home and write.

Hour after hour, I couldn’t take my mind away. When I could – when I wasn’t absorbed in one of my legal matters or taking care of my kids or doing yard work with my husband – or maybe even when I was doing those things, I was thinking about writing. Earlier today I described it on Twitter like this:

If I can’t be writing, at least I can allow my mind to tumble freely through the halls of the story.
And that is what it feels like. It’s like my mind is tumbling around ideas, words, story line and characters, with no particular sense factored in. That’s my imagination, like a load of dirty laundry in a front-loading machine; it’s a busy mess in there. So, then what? What does one do with all of those active thoughts about a story? One writes.
I wrote down some of my tumbling thoughts tonight before they vanished. Now, they reside in my outline. Boom.

Day 211 – Write compelling characters or suffer the consequences

Day two hundred eleven of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I have been keen to work on the characters in my book. I’m making notes to more fully develop the characters and to not let them get watered down and lost in the plot. After reading the first draft, I realized that although the characters are compelling in my mind and I know them in and out, I wasn’t conveying enough about them to the reader. As I wrote, I imagined their involvement in the story, why they would have certain reactions to events and how they would interact with other characters based on their personalities and past histories. I see now that I wasn’t getting enough of that information on the page. Important aspects of my characters weren’t adequately coming through my writing.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that I am able to recognize these flaws in my first draft. I know I have work to do. I want my characters to be as compelling as they deserve to be. To allow anything less would cheat the story and most definitely, the reader. Because if your characters aren’t compelling, your book won’t be either.

Day 205 – What I learned from my last chapter

Day two hundred five of my 365 Day Writing Project.

As I read the first draft of my book, I took notes on plot inconsistencies, story lines that need more development and character issues. I found myself doubting parts of the story and even the whole book as being too cliche, too bland, too unrelatable. I started to panic that maybe I couldn’t fix it. Maybe all the rewriting and revising in the world wouldn’t be able to turn this book into what I have been envisioning for so long.

Then I got to the last chapter, and everything came together. All I need to know to rewrite this book into something great, I learned in the last chapter. First, my writing in the last chapter is far superior in quality to anything I had written in the twenty chapters before it. That is promising. Secondly, I effectively closed the loop on the conflicts and dilemmas of the protagonist, evolving her into the person the reader wants her to be. That I managed to pull that off is also promising. Most importantly, what I – as the reader – wanted to experience in the last chapter told me what I – as the writer – need to develop and focus on in the earlier chapters.

I feverishly took notes on these realizations and have begun the rewrite. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but at least I know where I’m headed. The last chapter is my beacon in the fog.

Day 184 – The plot continues

Day one hundred eighty-four of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 600

I’m in wrap-it-up mode in the final chapter of my book. As much as I have a need at this point to provide closure and a sense of satisfaction to the reader, I am finding that the plot continues to keep things interesting. It’s not over by any means.

Something pivotal just occurred when my characters are supposed to be winding down. I did not expect it, but I guess that means the end of the adventure has left me – and hopefully the reader – wanting more.

I love how much I learn about the creative writing process from these little surprises.

Day 179 – Character conflict keeps the reader engaged

Day one hundred seventy-nine of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 500

Tonight, I brought back a character who hasn’t had a direct presence in the book since one of the early chapters. It was fun to write him again, although recalling his voice for dialogue was more challenging than I anticipated. I did the best I could and remembered that I can tighten it up later. That helps me so I don’t have to obsess about getting everything right the first time.

Conflict between characters is one of my favorite elements of fiction to write, and to read. These two characters in particular emote conflict that is both good and bad. They are fond of each other while at the same time, they can’t stand each other. There is palpable tension between them. It’s interesting to write and hopefully, interesting to read. And now that I’m at the stage of closing loops to reach an ending, it is satisfying to see them together again.

Day 170 – Plot changes can do wonders

Day one hundred seventy of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,300

I see the light at the end of the long tunnel, and I know the way to get there.

An excellent plot twist gets all the credit. It evolved as I was writing last night and it got me really excited for how this book is looking to end. It gave everything new life. And now I am closer than ever to finishing the first draft and I have a solid sense of how it is going to end. Yesterday I didn’t.

Soon I will get to write an ending to this story that I never considered, not only when I first outlined my plans for this book, but also throughout writing it over the last several months. It is a far better one, thanks to the plot change that happened last night. I can’t even describe how great a feeling it is to be getting so close to a completed first draft. I can only imagine how amazing it will feel when I actually do complete it. Until then, I have some fun writing to do.

Day 169 – Ignore that reluctant inner voice and just write

Day one hundred sixty-nine of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,500

I got a late start tonight. I will admit I was reluctant to try to get into writing that late. But I did. And the words flew onto the page. This was yet another example of how pushing through those moments of “I can’t” or “I don’t feel like it” or “I’ll put it off until tomorrow” really pays off. Just write. It is that simple. And look at what happened. I jammed out 1,500 words and the story took an awesome turn I wasn’t planning on. Tonight was definitely one of those times when writing fiction was thrilling, fulfilling and just plain fun. Like I used to do before I started this project, if I had listened to my reluctant inner voice and bailed on writing tonight, I would have really missed out.

As for the turn in the story, **SPOILER ALERT.** Do you remember that character I introduced in a post for Day 137, an older gentleman named Lyndon? I mentioned him again in the post for Day 153 when I talked about him parting ways with the main character. Well, he’s back. In a surprising turn, he and the main character are together again. And it’s great. I couldn’t be more thrilled about his return and I think it improves the story line. I’m excited to write more about Lyndon and Skylar’s current adventure tomorrow.

And when that reluctant inner voice returns some day, I will immediately ignore it. It will never cheat me out of a great writing session ever again.

Day 166 – Looking forward to a first read

Day one hundred sixty-six of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,200

Without saying what it was, I can report that I made a decision about my plot dilemma from yesterday. It wasn’t an easy one, and I’m not even sure I made the right decision. I *think* I did, but I won’t be sure until I reach the ending. So, we’ll see.

I am most pleased by the fact that there is still progress. Tonight I ended Chapter Eighteen and started Chapter Nineteen. That’s my favorite kind of progress; dynamic and exciting. I will go into the weekend with a new chapter started, and hopefully some extra time to work on it. It would be great to reach the ending of this draft (maybe another couple of chapters to go) because I am thick with anticipation of doing a first read of my manuscript. Now that I think about it, I suppose I am in a good place right now. There is a lot to look forward to.