Thursday, April 06, 2017
When last we met at this spot on March 22, Dear Reader, I (Donis) wrote about reaching the middle of my work in progress. I was feeling like I had veered off into the weeds and was having to slog my way around a bit in order to find my way back onto the road. In the two weeks that have passed, I have managed to get back onto the highway and get moving again. So here I am, speeding along nicely, when much to my discomfort I come to a fork in the road. Which way should I go?
You may wonder why I don’t have a map. Well, I did, once. Kind of. But my map no longer leads me to where I want to go. I was told once by a mystery author (who also happens to be a lawyer - a significant detail, I think), that before she begins writing, she outlines each and every one of her novels to the tune of at least one hundred pages, and never deviates therefrom. One Very Big Name of my acquaintance never outlines at all, or even has much in mind when she begins her mammoth novels. She writes dozens of seemingly unrelated episodes, then arranges them in some sort of order and cobbles them together with new scenes and segues. This technique may sound pretty slapdash, but it seems to work for this woman, since she could buy and sell us all.
I have done both. Each book seems to be a whole new order of creation for me, and demands its own unique method of coming into being. I’ve been known to outline before I begin when I think that would help me clarify the direction of the plot in my own mind. I have also simply started writing, usually at the beginning, but I’ve started in the middle and the end, as well. More than once I’ve begun a novel on the fly, and then gone back and created an outline because I’ve gotten myself into a muddle and can’t quite figure the way out. It’s not like this has never happened to me before, and I must remember that miraculously it always works out. As I write the first draft, my beginnings never do match the end, for somewhere in the middle of the story, I changed my mind about this character, or this action, or this story line. I try not to waste time by going back to the beginning and fixing it to fit my new vision. No, no, that way lies madness. I can get (and have gotten) caught up in an endless merry-go-round of fixes and never reach the end. I just have to keep going until the book is done.
When I was a pre-teen, I spent several summers at Girl Scout Camp, way out in the woods outside of Locust Grove, OK. One of our activities was something called a Penny Walk. We would hike down a long, maze-like path through the woods, and every time we came to a fork in the trail, the point-girl would toss a penny to decide which way to go. Every walk was different from the one before, yet we always found our way back.
So I hope to construct this new novel like a penny walk, and every time I come to a fork in the road, I’ll make a decision which way to go, and trust that it will lead me home.