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Writes of Passage: What Happens Next?


Man-thinking-youung-with-words1So, it’s not shocking to me that I only got to Day 8 with my Daily Writes series. I had great intentions, but not a huge amount of time or headspace, given that I’m working a full-time job that’s all about writing, and writing a novel in my spare time. Writing about writing every day on top of that was too much, so I went in the other direction and put my blog out of my mind altogether, mostly so I could concentrate on what was turning out to be a very difficult third book to write. Not that any book is easy to write, but I was facing different challenges and fears with this one than I did with the previous two novels.

Essentially my big worry was story. Having written two novels that had strong concepts as the narrative driving force, I’m now writing a book that doesn’t have a concept and is essentially about a relationship between two people and how forces beyond them affect it. My big fear was (and is) that I won’t be able to get the reader to keep turning the pages. In my previous books, literally every 1,000 words, I posed some sort of question so the reader would want to see what happens next, and in writing this one I felt I didn’t have enough action for those questions to pop up.

I’m trying to let go of having to rely action – the desire for big things to happen and obstacles to propel my protagonist’s story forward. This is a quiet story, and I have to trust that my reader will be so invested in my characters that they will want to see what happens to them without being prodded along with the ‘what happens next?’ structure. I am two-thirds way through my first draft, and in the process am getting to know and deeply care about my characters, and I want to see what happens to them (at this point, I don’t know how this book is going to end). I’m hoping this will translate to my editor, and after a couple more drafts, to my readers.

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The Daily Writes: Day 3

ImageToday I got more conversation under my belt than writing. I’m staying at the writer’s and artist’s retreat, The Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, Co. Monaghan. At dinner I met a novellist who talked about the excitement of beginning a story without knowing exactly how the plot is going to unfold. “If you don’t know what’s going to happen next, your readers won’t.” she said.

It doesn’t feel exciting to me at all right now. It just feels scary. I’m inching forward, half the time trying to figure it all out in advance, and then telling myself to stay in the moment, to let go of having to know.

So, in the moment, the key character of my book, Missy, has arrived. I’ve spent much of my writing time today describing how she looks, trying to give as much information possible without overdoing it. She’s a transformed character, someone who has re-created herself. The trouble is, I’m not sure exactly why she’s gone to the trouble of such painstaking re-creation. In my mind, she kind of looks like Sammy Jo Carrington, a character from the 1980s soap, Dynasty. Not that her personality is bitchy like Sammy Jo’s, but there’s something about the eyes, a mischevious, bold quality that the actress Heather Locklear brought to the role.

I do feel a bit excited about the character, and how she will develop and infiltrate my main characters’ lives, even if I don’t exactly know how it will play out at this moment. I’m trying to trust in the process, but tomorrow I’m going to spend the day doing a little mapping. It’s okay to strike a balance between knowing and not knowing, I think.