So, I’m in the middle of the novel. This is where all the fun stuff I’ve been setting up (characters, places, victims and suspects) has to be stirred and allowed to marinade, without getting boring for me or the reader.
I have to make things difficult for my heroine, in other words.
Part of me doesn’t want to, because conflict is messy and difficult and I tend to shy away from confrontations in real life. And what good is fiction if it’s not an escape from reality?
Well, there’s a school of thought that says fiction is more about reality that reality is! We use fiction to experience life’s discomforts in a safe way. If I want readers to be pulled in, I need to do that for them. So as the author, I guess fiction is double-ly NOT about escapism.
So, to help me drill down into the emotional heart of this section, I dipped into Donald Maass’s excellent The Emotional Craft of Fiction. He explains a topic (in this case “the emotional midpoint”) and asks you lots of pointed questions about that scene.
When I was in workshops Don lead a year ago, he led a whole ballroom full of writers though this process. Unlike when I’m reading his books, I couldn’t skip the exercise (well, I could have, but then it’d just have been me, sitting looking around and a couple of hundred other writers making their manuscripts better). I found it so ridiculously helpful to sit there and scribble backstory and exploratory notes, that I don’t skip over these parts of his writing books any more.
(I used to tell myself I was ‘saving them for later’. You can guess how often I came back and did the exercises.)
When I say ‘useful’, I don’t mean ‘easy’, and I’m quite proud of myself for pushing through, this morning. I not only fleshed out some possibilities for my character, I then switched into writing mode and finished off a scene i had started last week, then started a new one (for a total of 1267 new words. That’s 5500+ this month. Not spectacular, but chipping away, and not bad when I remember I researched, wrote and submitted an 1800 word article to a paying market, at the same time.)
I am trying to remind myself that it doesn’t all have to be right in the first draft. But I do need things to be roughly in the right places, and for the right reasons, so this kind of prep work is really useful.
I’m getting ready to be finished with this novel. Since I know what the big climax and conclusion are going to be, I feel a writing frenzy approaching. Some day soon, I’ll wake up, desperate to be finished. I’ll have two choices. I could give up, or I could realize I’m so far invested in this now that I really have to finish it, at which point I’ll feel compelled to write as fast as I can until I at least reach the end of the story.
After that, i can allow it to sit and stew for a bit before I come back to it with fresh eyes.
And that, I hope, is how this is going to work from here on out.