Now that I’ve finished the rewrite of my last novel (Are we ever truly finished? Those are the questions that nibble my toes at night…), I’m finally able to clear the way for my new work in progress. This should be a fresh, freeing sensation, right? Honestly, it’s kind of terrifying.
I’ve discovered I have an awful time “breaking away” from the last book I’ve been working on. At least I already have a great start on the new novel, but it’s like wading through a desert. I don’t have a strong grip on the voice yet, and everything is so new, it’s daunting. There’s an overwhelming “I don’t know where to begin-ness.” I have, after all, been rewriting for the past year, which involves one comfortable, well-worn story. I know all of the characters inside-out. I can tell you the route you need to take to get from Freddy’s house to Paul’s, and about how Freddy likes chocolate milk, but won’t touch it plain. I have a grasp on my new characters, but I am still learning about them.
The new story has a ton of promise, but it isn’t broken in yet, which is an apt way to describe my life now. New town, new habits, new novel in progress… nothing is nice and cozy-comfortable yet. And as I previously established, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t take well to change. I find security and sanity in the things that don’t surprise me. But I also am the kind of person who loves to go on adventures and discover new places and sites–maybe I just need something trustworthy to come home to.
Either way, I’m not there in my book yet, which is why I haven’t been writing regularly. Also, the story wasn’t coming as quickly as it had been in its fledgling days of wildfire ideas. Instead of writing for the sake of writing, I wanted to take a new approach. I decided to stop forcing the issue of writing for the sake of writing and reflect on the story outline, which is usually impossible for me. Normally, I just let the characters reveal the story to me and write when a scene comes to mind. In the back of my mind, I knew that this story had to go somewhere and I wasn’t seeing the forest for the trees; the arc wasn’t as apparent to me as I thought it would be, so I just let my brain “rest” on it and gave myself a “break.”
And then it came, like a shot out of the dark. I can’t even recall if there was a trigger. Maybe my brain was quietly working on the lock on Pandora’s Box, and one question or thought about my characters or story revealed it all to me. Either way, it changed the entire story for the better. And what’s crazy is it revealed enough for me to construct a nearly complete outline of the book. I don’t work with outlines until I’m usually reworking plot issues or am nearing the end, so this is all unfamiliar territory at this stage. I have an outline, which I now need to develop with actual pages. And it’s kind of terrifying, because I’m not used to knowing where my story is going from point A to point Z. I don’t know where to begin because I know too much, if that makes sense. And it’s not like this is a plot-driven novel.
The subject matter of my new plot is deeper and more serious than anything I’ve tried to approach before, and it’s a little intimidating. It requires the kind of research you can’t find online or in a book. I’m going to have to actually interview someone to find out what I need to know about my character’s problems. Maybe you know this or not, but writers aren’t usually equipped with suave people skills. A lot of us mumble and avoid eye contact and would rather be thrown into a pit of tigers than into a situation where we have to voluntarily sit down and speak to strangers about real life situations– IN PERSON.
So while it’s exciting to have most of my book completely outlined before I start to knuckle down and write, it’s also vexing. Sometimes I’d prefer not to see the mountain before I start to climb it. Rocks and pebbles are far less intimidating than a tower of steep, evergreen-populated granite. On the bright side, having the whole story before I start writing saves me from churning out thousands upon thousands of words I will never use. My last book took so long to rewrite because my leap-without-looking method got me into two books’ worth of material, and it was supposed to be a stand-alone novel. I would rather not repeat that offense and see those acres of words burning, the smell of their carcasses blurring my revising eyes. This time, I want to do right by my story the first time out of the gate.
Now, where to begin.