Tag Archives: finishing a first draft

‘Magic’ Monday?

There’s no denying it now. The year has started. Things are back to whatever normality they are accustomed to occupy. There are no more excuses. My inner drill sergeant is clearing his throat and getting ready to shriek, and I have no valid way of shutting him up.

Photo Credit: Defence Images via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Defence Images via Compfight cc

A shame, then, that my brain feels like it could really use another couple of weeks off, but that’s what self-discipline is for. Right? I’ve already been far too lenient in allowing myself to stay away from my WiP since before Christmas (eek!), but I refuse to feel guilty. Even though I’ve seen other writers posting on social media about how they worked through the holiday season, scribbling away until 2 a.m. every night, making the most of the break (I most assuredly did not do this), I refuse to beat myself up. Even if I spent my evenings binge-watching Game of Thrones and drooling, slightly, onto my couch.

That’s over now, though. No more drooling. Drooling is out for 2015.

It’s time to get focused once again.

I made a good start, I have to admit, by meeting up (albeit sort of accidentally) with a pair of fellow writers yesterday. We are all at different stages in the process, which made it even more interesting. One of us is shiny and fully fledged, published and all (her book is available here, in case it sounds like your kind of read), and one of us is me, of course, who’s sort of midway, and the other’s a prolific short story writer and committed writing course attendee who probably knows more about writing than I ever will, and who is just about to finish the first draft of her novel. It was great to talk to people who know how it feels to battle your way to the end of a Work-in-Progress, and to face the editing process, and who’ve stood on the precipice of rejection and lived to tell the tale. It was good for my other half, too, who got to talk to another ‘writing widower’ about how annoying… I mean, endearing, it is to watch your wife’s eyes glaze over and her mind flitter off elsewhere when you’re halfway through a conversation. It did him good to have a shoulder to cry on. I think they concocted a support group, actually, which they’re going to call the ‘Anti-Social Network’, designed to gently encourage Twitter-addicted partners to get off the internet and focus on reality. Good luck with that, guys.

In any case, though this was an excellent (and enjoyable) start to my writing life in 2015, it wasn’t quite as good as getting my backside into my writing seat and actually putting words on a page. Hopefully, I’ll get to that today, if I can channel the magic of this ‘magic’ Monday and get my mojo fired up.

And if the house cleaning, decoration removal, and general tidy-up after Christmas duties don’t snow me under first, that is…

Good luck with your own self-discipline today, whatever it is you’re getting back to after the break. I hope a productive, happy and pleasingly busy day awaits – and if there are words in it, all the better.


Conducting a Story

One of the things I have some trouble with when writing is plotting. It’s not a problem unique to me – I think plotting is something a lot of people struggle with, but it’s something that can be improved and worked on, which is a major plus. It’s far harder to work on your ability to create characters, or your ability to write dialogue – working on your plotting is hard, but it can be done.

Plotting a novel is not the same thing as ‘telling your story’, though they’re related; ‘plotting’, to me, is aptly named because it’s far more like sticking pins in a map and threading a piece of string between them, allowing you to view a three-dimensional representation of where you’re going – or where you’ve been.

Photo Credit: Eric Kilby via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Eric Kilby via Compfight cc

It’s important to realise that plotting doesn’t have to be done before you set off – many writers prefer to create their first draft instinctively, telling the story without a ‘frame’, because it can help to maintain a feeling of freedom as you write. Of course, this can mean you take a few wrong turns, but the benefit of writing like this is it doesn’t really matter how many mistakes you make, as long as you tell your story. (Rule number one: get to the end, finish your work, complete the first draft, and rest before you carry on).

But it’s important to plot afterwards, to give shape to your work and to make sure it hits the expected crescendos at the expected times. Storytelling is about archetype, and this is because it has developed over thousands of years. People expect a particular rhythm, a particular flow, to occur when they’re reading a story (unless it’s something which makes a narrative feature out of going against the flow, like Ulysses or the recent A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing); if a writer doesn’t deliver the ‘ups’ when they’re expected, and the ‘downs’ where they belong, a reader will feel at sea and vaguely unsatisfied with their reading experience.

And you want to avoid this, of course.

I was recently forwarded a document to help with plotting which I feel is something everyone who writes should see. It’s called Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet, and I’d recommend you follow the link and check it out if writing is something you’re interested in. It outlines exactly what I’ve been talking about here – the ‘expected’ ups and downs, or beats, of a story. It might go against the grain for some people to think they have to write a story which conforms to ‘norms’, but the thing is, most stories fall into this beat naturally because that’s how stories work. As natural as it is, though, it’s useful to have a clear outline of this arc, and Blake Snyder’s is one of the best I’ve seen. We expect this arc when we read, but it’s not always easy to recreate it when we write, and so a road map – or a plot – is useful.

I see the beat of a well-constructed story this way (and, naturally enough, it doesn’t vary all that much from Blake Snyder’s model):

A story should always begin just before a moment of change. This might vary slightly by genre – as in, some genres will require a longer period spent ‘in the norm’ than others – but it’s a good general rule of thumb. You want to give your reader some sense of the basics of your character’s reality, the humdrum monotony of their life, the everyday. Think about it as a description of what your character has to lose when the bottom falls out of their world. I write books for children, so the period I spend ‘in the norm’ is generally shorter than it is for works of literary fiction; it’s literally a snapshot of the day-to-day before the action starts.

The crisis comes after the set-up. We have some idea of your character and their world, their values and what’s important to them, what they have to lose. Then, it’s time to hit them with a problem. Something happens to threaten their comfort, or which promises to wreak havoc, and we get to see the protagonist of your story deal with this initial challenge, usually with fear and/or confusion as they find their feet in a changed reality. They may not fully understand what’s happening, and they need to think fast to work things out; they’ll start to come up with a plan of action, which might be wholly inadequate – though they won’t know that, yet.

The choice is next – your character chooses to act, based on the knowledge they have at the time. They can be shown debating with themselves or other characters, being forced to act, being encouraged to act, prevaricating over their choice, being afraid. Being unsure. This is all fine. So long as they do something, you’re good. Even if the choice is ‘wrong’ (actually, especially if it’s wrong), it needs to be made and acted upon in some way.

The change comes once the choice has been made, and the character has started down the path they’ve decided upon. Their life has changed based on the crisis, and the choice they made as a result of it, but now is also the time to twist the ground beneath them, or send them down an unexpected track. They discover something they didn’t know before, or they get betrayed, or someone comes to help them, or another person gets involved in their quest in some way.

The challenge comes somewhere near mid-point, when the character thinks they’ve got a handle on what’s going on, and they think they know what’s coming next. But, of course, they don’t. Perhaps they’ve been tricked, or maybe they’re trapped, or it might happen that they’ve walked themselves into a corner and can’t get out. Either way, mid-point should see your character challenged somehow and overcoming it, either coming out on a high (which then slumps into a low before the finale) or vice-versa.

The chase can come next, when the character is literally being pursued by the bad guys or when time is running out for them to solve the mystery or when something is forcing them to act more quickly than they’re comfortable with. It’s always good to have some urgency here, but it doesn’t have to be a literal chase or race against the clock. It will depend a lot on what sort of story you’re telling. It’s the archetype of the thing which counts.

The crucible – or the nadir – can come after this, when the character feels all is lost, that there’s nowhere else to turn, that they’ve done all they can and it hasn’t worked. This is when we see them grit their teeth and vow to carry on regardless, when we can get behind them and will them on, urging them to give it one last try…

…which leads to the chance, the last-second idea or inspiration or twist of fate that gives the character/s one slender hope, the tiniest sliver of opportunity to turn things around, when they realise their potential/make a decision/take a risk, feeling they have nothing to lose. Even if the action they take doesn’t directly impact on the story’s outcome, the fact that the characters dig deep and force themselves to take this chance is what’s important.

Hand in hand with this comes the choice, again, the choice to act, again based on the best knowledge they have – which will be vastly different from the knowledge they had at the start. It will be informed by their experiences, by their growth as a character, by what they’ve learned and also by the people they’ve gathered around them. It will be tied in with the crisis and the change, too, the event or events which happened at the story’s outset and which set them off on their journey to begin with. It will be their last stand, when they are ready to sacrifice themselves for the good of others if need be, or when they’ve come to a realisation about themselves as a character and they’ve reached a place of peace or satisfaction, or when they’ve finally made a full and informed decision in total knowledge and acceptance of their changed reality. Normally this will coincide with their overthrowing of their enemies, but the core of this part of the story is your character and their growth, the fact that they have learned enough to make their final choice and that they’re satisfied, on some level, with whatever happens. They know they’ve done their best.

The calm after the storm is what finishes your story arc. It’s similar to the snapshot of reality taken just before the first change, and it doesn’t have to linger. The reader simply needs to know that reality, of a sort, has reasserted itself and that your character’s life – albeit changed utterly – has settled into a new ‘normal’, and that their growth is complete.

Knowing all this and putting it into practice are two different things, of course. Today, I’m going to print out Blake Snyder’s guidelines and think them through with relation to ‘Emmeline’, to make sure I’m doing the best I can to hit the ups when I should be, and to allow the downs to last just as long as they need to. My little story has got to fit in with all the other stories being sung around it, and I don’t want to be out of time.

So, I’m raising my baton and getting on with it. I hope these pointers have been helpful to those of you crafting your own tales, and if you have a different take on the ‘beat’ of a story, and how best to conduct it, please feel free to link or comment below.

Now. A-one, two, three…

Photo Credit: chrisbb@prodigy.net via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: chrisbb@prodigy.net via Compfight cc





Scraping the Bottom

Yesterday, I battled my way to the end of draft 1 of ‘Eldritch’. Today, however, I’m wondering why I bothered.

You might ask ‘Why? Surely it’s good to have reached the end of another first draft?’

Well. The reason for my disillusion today is, of course, that the quality of the work produced goes down very fast when you’re feeling tired, or uninspired, or unhappy in any way with any aspect of your life or your writing. I knew yesterday that my bucket was scraping the stones at the bottom of my well of inspiration, but I kept sending it down anyway, expecting it to be full when it got back to the top.

Of course, it was – but it was full of mud and rock and surprised, wriggling insects not used to seeing the light of day, and perhaps a clump or two of mouldy moss, too. The clear water was all gone.

Photo Credit: Kash_if via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Kash_if via Compfight cc

I got the work done, all right – I got the story told. But I couldn’t have been less happy, even as I was writing it, with the work I was producing. Once I’d taken the story as far as I could, I saved my file, closed down my computer and sat with my bone-shaking tiredness for a few minutes, my mind feeling disconnected from my physical body and the world around me. Even as I sat there, literally having just typed ‘The End’, I started to understand what was wrong with the story as I’d written it.

A short list of What’s Wrong with My Book

– An unnecessary meeting with several unnecessary characters.

– A complete lack of character development for the antagonist, and not enough time given to his reasons for his actions.

– A total fail in my world-building, and not enough time devoted to working out my magical system.

– The story is far too heavily weighted at the front – in other words, too many pages are devoted to the first ‘half’ of the adventure, and not enough to the second. The only positive in this is the fact that the ‘finished’ draft came in at just under 62,000 words, which is a lot shorter than my norm; there’s plenty of scope for expansion.

Yesterday, when I finished writing, I felt hopeless. I felt despairing. I began to question whether I should even continue with my plans for my career, and I began to fret that I wasn’t deserving of all that I’d accomplished so far – having several stories published, gaining an agent, slowly building a following and a readership on social media. This feeling didn’t last, of course, though the thoughts, and the deeper insecurities, took a little longer to disperse. I’m not sure they’ll ever really go away, but so long as they stay quiet long enough for me to get on with the work, I’ll be happy.

Luckily, I slept well and have woken this morning in a much better frame of mind, with a clearer idea of what I can do to ‘fix’ the story. It’s not a total waste of time and effort, as I thought yesterday. It’s not the worst thing ever put on paper (though it’s probably in the same ballpark!) It’s not unsalvageable. I know that I can fix it, and bring it to a point where I won’t be ashamed to share it with other people. Right now, if my agent read it I’m sure her hair would turn white and she’d burn our agent-author agreement; I know it won’t always be this way. It’s going to be a big job, but I’m equal to it.

However, today is not the day I’m going to start working on it.

Today is going to be a day for getting to all the other tasks I’ve been neglecting for the past couple of months while I’ve been up to my neck with writing. There are jobs to be done in literally every corner of my house, and there’s a book to be read, and there are walks to be taken, and there is (if I have any energy left!) baking to do, and I’m looking forward to the sort of good, clean tiredness that comes from having an exhausted body, instead of an exhausted mind, at the end of today. I’m hoping that, as soon as I take my eyes off my well of inspiration, that it will slowly start to fill up again, and that the good clear water I need to sustain me will start to trickle through the stones again. I’m not planning to send my bucket near it for a while.

Finishing a novel isn’t easy. It takes focus and dedication and bloody-mindedness. You need to have a story you can’t rest until you’ve finished telling, and you need to have some idea – even only in outline – of how you’re going to get to the end of it. Even so, a first draft is likely to have missteps and forced steps and illogical steps and errors, but that’s all right. Getting the skin over the bones of your story, even if it’s stretched, is good. Once that’s done, you can go back and settle it properly. If you force it, though, what happens is you begin to think there’s not enough story, or you haven’t done enough work in the writing of it, or you aren’t enough, and slowly but surely you lose hope. I’m sure many thousands of stories have fallen at the first hurdle, but I should think many thousands more have fallen at the last. Beginning a story and clip-clopping your way through the middle can be fun; bringing everything to a conclusion is tough, and chances are it won’t work right the first time you try it. But all I can say is, don’t give up when you’ve got that far. Leave it alone for a bit, and come back to it once your mind has had a chance to forget all about it.

Stop scraping the bottom. Let your well re-fill. Once you do, there’ll be plenty of water for all the stories you have nestling within you, waiting for their time to bloom.

Photo Credit: ViaMoi via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ViaMoi via Compfight cc


That Familiar Feeling…

I’ve hit 65,000 words on the WiP, which is A Good Thing.

Image: lightintheboxblog.com

Image: lightintheboxblog.com

This is particularly good when I consider that, at about 50,000 words, I thought I’d written myself into an irretrievable mess and getting to the lofty wordcount I’m currently at seemed no more than a fever dream. So, I’m pleased.

Or, at least, I was pleased. Until I remembered that I really suck at writing endings.

You’d think I’d have improved by now, frankly. I’m on my fourth book, I’ve written loads of stories (some of which have even been published, so they can’t have been that bad), and I’ve bashed out about a million blog posts. I should know how to end things properly, but it still gives me the sweats. The strangest thing of all is, with this book, I know how I want it to end – I’m just not sure how to make it brilliant enough.

(By which I mean, of course, exciting and thrilling and spooky and scary and cool, all of which are vital when you’re writing a book about outsmarting a horrible and terrible ghoul-thingie bent on revenge, which is what I’m doing).

I keep trying to remind myself that I’m completing a first draft, and that all I need is a bare skeleton of story which can be given proper flesh and musculature later; getting it finished is the important thing. But I’m one of those complicated people for whom completing a job with anything less than perfection in mind is pretty much impossible. I’ve been editing as I wrote; half the book is technically a second draft, because I printed it out to bring it with me on a road trip, red pen in hand, when I was at that point in the writing process. I also don’t do what so many other writers do when they’re drafting, which is leave whole sections unwritten with a few notes to direct them when they revisit the draft, along the lines of ‘something needs to happen here’ – I leave no gap unbridged when I’m trying to bring a story to completion. I prefer to sweat over it now, rather than sweat over it later. So, I want to do a good job of the latter parts of this book, even if their true importance, for now, lies in their being the bit that comes before I get to type ‘The End.’

I read once, a long time ago, that in order to keep your writing fresh (and your mind fully engaged in your story) you should leave your character ‘stuck’ every day when you finish work – as in, hanging off the edge of a cliff with no visible means of rescue, or facing a firing squad without hope of survival. Then, the next morning when you dive back in, the stakes are high and the narrative blood is pumping before you so much as add your first word of the day, and you don’t leave yourself room for flabby storytelling or complacency. I think there’s something to be said for that approach. I’ve left my protagonist stuck at several points in the drafting of this story and I think it has helped me to get ‘unstuck’, and to keep her moving. There is, of course, always the risk that you leave things too stuck, and you have to unpick the stickiness and find another path – but I’ve done that at least three times with this book, too. It’s not unsurvivable, the whole ‘oo-er. I’ve made a bit of a mess of this’ thing. I know things don’t have to be set in stone the first time you write them at this stage of the game, and the beauty of drafting is that you get to change stuff that doesn’t work – it’s just hard to remember that when you’re in the thick of it.

Anyway, I’m fairly sure I can wrap this story up, though I have just written an unlikely scene wherein our heroine uses a life-jacket to escape from a perilous situation (and not in the way one would expect). I thought it was terribly clever at the time and now it seems a bit…

Image: fbpic-comments.blogspot.com

Image: fbpic-comments.blogspot.com

…so we’ll see whether it makes the final cut.

Another problem with writing first drafts which are over-concerned with being ‘right’ is, of course, that you risk struggling to edit and re-draft them. It’s harder to chuck away thousands of words you’ve really sweated over than it is paragraphs which go a bit like: ‘blah blah blah, protagonist eats dinner and has a fight with mum, do something here with an exploding bathtub or similar’; the more strongly-built the foundation, the harder it is to dig up. It’s not even a pride thing, or a ‘precious writer’ thing – it’s literally just harder to see another way forward when you’ve put down your first version of the story too strongly, like leaning too heavily with a pencil and leaving a track in the paper when you erase what you’ve drawn. I’m wondering now whether I should just write something like ‘ffffffffffffffffflllllllllllllppppp, stuff happens here for ten pages, you know what I’m talking about’ instead of a conclusion, and hope for the best when draft two kicks off.

But between you and me, it ain’t gonna go down like that. I know it, you know it, everybody knows it. So, I might as well just go with my natural style – panic, stress, perfectionism and eventual exhaustion. It’s worked out okay for me in the past, right?

Have a most excellent Thursday. I’m planning to be hot and bothered, but it’s all good. After all, it’s only drafting.


Sisyphus – I Feel your Pain, Man

It’s the twelfth of December. Say what?

Image: funnyjunk.com

Image: funnyjunk.com

Santa is, indeed, coming. So is the end of the year, which is a lot less pleasant to think about.

You may remember – mainly because I went on and on and on about it – that I completed NaNoWriMo this year. That means I wrote 50,000 words in less than 30 days. However, I’m beginning to wonder if I dreamed the whole thing, because it’s now been nearly two weeks since NaNoWriMo finished, and since then I’ve written about 9,000 words, tops. I sit down at my computer, and open up my document, and I scroll to the spot where I left off last time.

And I feel like this.

Image: scienceblogs.com

Image: scienceblogs.com

Getting through the work, day by day by day, is akin to strapping on a pair of cement boots and taking a brisk walk up the Matterhorn. It’s just so hard, and I don’t understand why.

Consider these points:

1. I have plenty of story left. I am nowhere near the conclusion of this book, and I know (in a broad sense) what I want to happen. It’s just a matter of getting there.

2. This feeling of mental block only happens when I’m actually at my desk. I was out for a walk yesterday, f’rinstance, and found my head filling up with ideas and enthusiasm and sheer delight at the thought of returning to my story, and so I galloped home. All that enthusiasm took a nosedive out the window as soon as the computer was switched back on, though. Does this make sense?

3. I really want to get this draft finished by the end of the year. I just can’t countenance the idea of bringing it over into 2014. Normally, when I am determined like this, I just knuckle down and get it done. Normally. But something – alors! – is not normal, these days.

It seems as though the story has become turgid, and floppy, and bland. It seems like my words are banal and meaningless and ‘seen it all before.’ Perhaps this is a side-effect of having had such a forced intimacy with the work for the past six weeks or so; maybe I simply need a break from it, and a change of focus.

But, at the same time, I don’t want a break from it. I want to finish it. I want to get through it, because I’m afraid that if I leave it alone too long I won’t ever see it through, and that would be breaking the first rule – the most important rule – of writing, which is: Finish Your Work. You can’t do a second draft of an incomplete first draft, so grinding to a halt now would be, in terms of Emmeline and Thing and their story, a disaster.

I believe there’s potential in this story. I really love the characters, and I like how the plot has, to a large extent, woven itself around them. It has taken a few unexpected turns, and ideas have suggested themselves to me as I wrote, which is an exhilarating feeling. But now I’m coming close to the End – I’m within 10,000 words of the conclusion to this story, by any rational calculation – and Endings have always been hard for me.

I read a book recently (a review will be posted in a couple of weeks’ time) which was a flight of extraordinary fancy. It did a few things which irritated me, namely introducing characters at the last minute who happen to have just the right power to get the protagonist out of a sticky situation, relying a little on coincidence and ‘extraordinary strokes of luck’ (my teeth go on edge when I read a phrase like this), but it did one other thing, which taught me – or perhaps, reminded me of – an important lesson. It demonstrated the power of a free and full imagination. This particular book went places which no other children’s book I’ve ever read has gone, and I found that refreshing and exciting.

It made me wonder why I constantly clamp down on my own imagination, telling myself that a scene in whatever I’m working on couldn’t possibly happen – it’s too far-fetched, and not realistic enough, and nobody would ever believe it.

Image: badideatshirts.com

Image: badideatshirts.com

But isn’t that sort of the point?

I’m not saying that child readers will believe any old rubbish, because – of course – I am passionately aware that isn’t true. But what they need are books which explore the limits of what a writer can imagine. They want to read things they’ve never read before, and they want to be surprised, and they want to be gripped, and they want to care about the characters. They want to be amused, probably more than anything else. They want descriptions which are good enough, and clear enough, that they seem effortlessly done; at the same time, these descriptions cannot be allowed to get in the way of their reading enjoyment, or stop them imagining themselves in the place of the hero. They want a world which is internally logical and consistent, which holds together and doesn’t break any of its own rules – but, after that, if you want to bring in talking elephants or pink trees or whatever it is, and they make sense in the world you’ve written, then there’s no reason why you should hesitate. Yet – when it comes to some of my own more ‘out-there’ ideas, that’s exactly what I’m doing. Why is applying the lessons I’ve learned from years of reading, enjoying and dissecting children’s books such a challenging thing?

Every day I sit down at this book, I spend the first hour or two unpicking most of what I wrote the previous day. Progress is painfully slow. I am getting there – and I hope I’ll make it before my ‘deadline’ hits – but I hope I’ll remember to give myself the space I need to let the story live. I’ll have to remind myself not to be afraid of where the story wants to go, and to give it the freedom to do what it wants to do. I have to trust myself to handle it.

Otherwise, I think the boulder’s going to start rolling back so fast that I won’t be able to stop it, and it’ll crush me to a pulp.

And nobody wants to see that, right?

Adventures in Drafting

Sometimes I wonder if I’m a writer, or a stenographer. More often than not, it doesn’t feel like I’m creating anything when I sit down at my keyboard; I just have a window into someone else’s life, and I’m recording it for posterity. It’s a strange, but slightly thrilling, sort of feeling. I’ve felt it before, but not for a while, now. I’ve missed it.

Image: officemuseum.com

Image: officemuseum.com

I am almost 69,000 words into draft 1 of ‘Tider’, and the grand dénouement is not far away. I have plotted, and replotted, and replotted the ending, adjusting every few days as my characters get lairy and unpredictable and start doing things their own way, as they are wont; still, though, they are surprising me by taking the initiative. ‘Step back, puny author,’ they seem to say. ‘We’ve got this.’ Then, I can only watch as they roundhouse kick their way out of every sort of structure and narrative I’d tried to put them in, and my careful planning falls down in a heap around my ears. Really, I don’t know why I bother.

I had reckoned I’d be finished ‘Tider’ about 4,000 words ago, but the story has kept going and there’s a little more that needs to be told yet. I thought I had dispatched a ‘baddie’ quite thoroughly, too, but they reappeared in yesterday’s writing, determined to have one final moment in the limelight. I thought my heroine had faced all the challenges she was to face, but another decided to show up just at the most inopportune moment. Seriously, at times, I feel like I’m wrangling a bunch of monkeys, and they all live inside my head.

How are ya!? Image: sodahead.com

How are ya!?
Image: sodahead.com

My husband got a little worried when I told him ‘Tider’ was refusing to cooperate; I guess he was imagining another 150,000-word beast was about to come spewing out of my fingers again. I hastily reassured him that wasn’t the case. I’m pretty close to the end of this draft. I haven’t reached it yet, but I hope – really hope – that today might be the day. I know there’s huge work left to do on this first draft (it has more holes than a dairy full of Swiss cheese, and it needs more expansion and explanation at the beginning), but I think it’ll be pretty solid by the time I get to type ‘The End’. I’m looking forward to that moment.

I had always imagined ‘Tider’ as a duology, or a trilogy even. Now, I’m hoping it will be a stand-alone novel. In one way, I feel sad that my original dreams for this story are no longer going to come true, but in another I know that the way I’ve written ‘Tider’ now is the way it should have been from the start. This version feels more true, and more satisfying, and I’m much happier with it. I’m finally figuring out that a story doesn’t have to exhaustively detail how every tiny thread pans out; there has to be a satisfactory end to the plot, of course, but a little bit of mystery is okay, too, as is a hint of what might happen to the characters once we’ve finished reading about them. A book isn’t supposed to be a chronicle of a family’s history, a begat-list running to the end of time – it’s supposed to be an episode in that history, a snapshot taken at a crucial moment, or a turning point, or a time of crisis. Once the characters have passed that point of testing, and they’ve come through the crucible in whatever way they can, then the story can end without a reader feeling like they’ve been cheated. I’m not talking about leaving a cliffhanger ending, or deliberately holding back on explaining a plot point for the sake of it – what I mean is, a book can have a ragged, messy, organic ending, a true-to-life ending, and it can be the absolute best note to leave the story on.

That’s what I think, at least.

I also love it (despite all my complaints) when characters come to life and start dictating what they’re going to do. Not only does it make you feel like a real writer, who has created a bunch of ‘real’ people – i.e. characters with their own minds, motivations and aspirations – but it’s also an amazing thing to watch your plot twist and turn upon itself in a way of its own choosing. Of course, I can decide to completely undo it in a subsequent draft, but I feel it’s good to give a story the freedom to develop as it goes. If it’s taking me by surprise, I hope it will take a reader by surprise, too.

Anyway. I have a lot to do today, so I’d best push on and get cracking. The sooner I get this draft done, the sooner I can get to redrafting it, and the sooner I can usher it out into the world. Maybe, one day, other people will even get to read it…

Wouldn't that be *wonderful*, Toto? Image: songbook1.wordpress.com

Wouldn’t that be *wonderful*, Toto?
Image: songbook1.wordpress.com