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.

What if

What if?

What. If.

I brainstormed an alternate plot line for my novel that could make all the difference. Actually, brainstormed is too strong of a word. It was more like I stumbled upon a fleeting, tangential thought at an unexpected moment. It was entirely unintentional. I have no idea how and why it came to me when it did. But it did.

And it might be brilliant.

It also could be a total stink-bomb of an idea, but that’s beside the point. The point is…this randomly sparked light bulb shone for a moment long enough to inspire me re-write and finish the first book I wrote this past year. The one that has been on pause for months, floundering due to a story line that just wasn’t right.

Today, I may have uncovered the key to make it right.

There is much work to be done. Research. Outlining. Cutting and chopping. Re-writing. And always my favorite: storytelling.

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 230 – Back into the rewrite

Day two hundred thirty of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I’m back. Back into the rewrite. I did some other writing for a bit, but began to again feel that niggling urge to get up to my elbows in revising my first draft. And I must say, it feels good to get back at it.

I’m revisiting the second half of Chapter 3 with purpose in mind to make changes to the plot. So far, so good. It’s even a little exciting. I have discovered that plot changes have that effect on me. With renewed creative energy, I look forward to working on it some more tomorrow.

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 178 – It’s never too late to outline

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

Words: 1,200

After I finished writing last night, I jotted down some notes to organize changes in plot. At the time, I didn’t fully realize the value of doing that exercise. Tonight, I did.

I had been having trouble sorting out the many plot changes that developed over the last several months. Even more troubling was the difficulty I was having reconciling those changes with an eye toward an ending. While I wrote last night, the changing plot lined up in my mind and I could foresee the ending. It was an aha! moment. While it was fresh in my mind, I wrote down an outline to map out how it will work. Coming back to that outline tonight was immensely helpful because I had already forgotten some key points. My memory was instantly refreshed and I started writing with a plan and purpose in mind.

That’s exactly how I started writing this book. I created an outline that I followed for a while. Then things changed. The plot took twists and turns I had not anticipated. I loved it when that happened; it was thrilling to see the story develop organically. So I scrapped the outline and just wrote. Creating a new outline as things changed seemed like a waste of time since I figured the plot would just change some more. And it did. Now I know that it is never too late to do an outline. Even if the ending is in sight.

Since I am writing my first book, I am enjoying the learning curve. It is humbling for the most part, since I recognize how clueless I was when I started. Frankly, I’m still rather clueless. But I am learning every day and improving my writing and story-telling skills. It is definitely a journey.

Day 172 – Writing for the re-write

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

Words: 1,100

Sometimes I write and think, “I am going to need to re-write this part later.” Writing every day means that some days are better than others. It follows naturally that some of my writing is better and some is worse. Tonight was one of the times it was worse. Much, much worse. Tonight, it got to the point where I decided to just get the shell of the scene down and worry about making it good later. That’s what revising and re-writing is for, after all.

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 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.