So it’s Saturday, around 5:30 p.m. Lexi is sleeping. Abby is sick and sleeping. Speak and Mazie are sleeping. The sun has gone down while I’ve been in front of the computer typing chapter 12 and my 1,667 words for today (which was actually closer to 2,100), which means the house is completely dark. Not a single light is on.
Looking outside it’s pitch black and all I can see is the light from the school across the street. It could be 9:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m. or 1:00 a.m. Who knows. Weird feeling.
The novel, Turn Left at the Blacktop, is coming along. I’m a few days ahead of schedule on the word count, but I don’t have the commanding and reaffirming lead I’d like to have. Writing 1,667 words every day is a lot, and missing a single day can put you pretty far behind, thus the need to build up a lead.
The past couple days have been hard to write, though today finally broke through and got a little easier. My main problem is I don’t know where my story is going. I keep waiting for it to tell me, and maybe it is (today gave me a hint), but it’s not telling me fast enough. So far I’ve discovered that my story lives and breathes in the flashbacks. That’s when it usually clicks for me. That’s what I wrote today.
Being continually creative and interesting while writing a novel is hard. Sometimes I just want to finish one scene and get to a more interesting one, but I can’t just skip ahead. I know I’m the author and I can, but it doesn’t fit the mood and the flow of my story. I need to wrap up the current scene, give some transition. And sometimes that’s just hard. Especially in dialogue I want to keep right on moving, but after a few times back and forth I realize we’ve lost all sense of where the characters are and what they’re doing. It’s hard to work in those interesting descriptions. And I feel like my characters are always smiling or grinning, maybe laughing, maybe smirking. I need more facial expressions.
The show, don’t tell part is also hard. I can write a vague description that I think shows what’s happening, but that assumes you the reader are smart enough to figure that out. I’m never quite sure if you are. I’ve written plenty of vague prose that leaves even me scratching my head when I read it over years later, so I’m afraid of doing the same here. Sometimes I wonder if that’s why old, classic literature is harder to read. They’re showing us tons of details and insights, but we’re too far removed from the culture to realize that crossing your arms means anger or laughing at someone is incredibly insulting (make up your own example here, I am).
I’ve also come to the realization that my novels are firmly grounded in reality. Depressing reality, but reality none the less. That makes my plots a little lackluster. There are no chase scenes or gun fights. It’s all about how people respond to tragedy. Which actually makes it sound kind of boring. Hopefully it’s not.
Latey I’ve been thinking my novel needs something to happen. I keep waiting for it to tell me what that something is, but it hasn’t quite come to me. Last night I thought my main character could stop a school shooting, sacrifice herself to save her classmates. While I like the idea, I like how it fits with my themes and resonates with my character and what’s she’s struggling with, it just doesn’t work. It would take this slow moving, thoughtful story and suddenly turn it into an after school special. It’s the kind of thing that happens in the movies, not my novels. Sure, I’ll have a character whos father, brother and grandfather died, whose mom ran away and lives with his grandma and then falls in love with a girl whose mom just died. But sudden and unexpected violence like a school shooting just seems too surreal. Lots of death, on the otherhand, just seems tragic.
Any way, there you go. Thoughts from halfway through a novel. And if you’re reading along as I post it, assurance that even I don’t know where this thing is going. If you think you know, drop me a line. It could be interesting to get some predictions out there.
Addendum: Everyone’s still asleep. Maybe I should keep writing.