Trusting the process, even when it’s not one
I’ve been struggling with book #3 for a while now. Every time I think I’m making headway, I hit a wall. Almost always, this means that somewhere along the way, I’ve taken a wrong turn, so I end up backtracking until I find my mistake, hang a sharp left or right in my plot, then start moving forward again. Unfortunately, this also means that I end up trashing more scenes than I care to think about. By the time I’m done with this novel, I will have probably written enough words for three.
Writers generally fall into one of two categories ~ plotters, who outline and think through the entire book before writing even one word, and pantsers, who may start with the seed of an idea but write the bulk of the story by the seat of their pants. I’m not a big fan of labels — especially ones people try to slap onto me — so I’m happy to say I’m neither. I fall somewhere in between.
Here’s also where I’ve gotten myself into trouble with book #3. I’m not enough of a plotter to think through more than the major plot points. I know where I’m headed, but not exactly how I’ll get there. And I’m not enough of a pantser to just write whatever comes to mind, trusting that it’ll all fall together in the end. I end up going round and round and nowhere at all. But my normal process — plot some, write some, plot some more — just wasn’t working with book #3. The story and the characters didn’t want to take shape, didn’t want to become like real people in my head.
And then in a screw-it-all moment, I chucked my process and wrote the black moment — far, far ahead of where I was in the story. Suddenly, my main character came alive. Her goals and motivations and conflicts fell together. Her personality lit up the page. She told me everything I needed to go back and fix in the scenes I’d already written, and every scene I still needed to write. By writing this one scene out of order, I’d found my story.
Every story is different, so I guess it makes sense that the process of birthing it might be different, too. My next characters may require an entirely different method to flesh them out, who knows? But I do know one thing: I’ll be listening.