Not a Waste, After All

Maybe all that regrouping of the first 120 pages wasn’t a waste of time. It felt like it last week, yet right after I wrote the Growing Pains post I went to my favorite bakery cafe, Baker & Spice, with my novel journal to brainstorm yet further. A funny thing happened between sips of nonfat chai latte: I had an epiphany about the story! I suspect that clarifying my issues through the aforementioned blog post cleared out my head enough to allow an “a-ha” room to enter.

Goes to show that only while writing do I become clear. Whether about my current novel or more personal topics, the act of writing allows me to think. In fact, for an eloquent description of what it means to be a writer, I point you to my friend Elizabeth’s blog. Check out this post. She conveys what I mean perfectly so no need to regurgitate it here.

And my epiphany? I’m looking at words in my journal right this second: “I just thought of something! Their story actually starts when they’re confronting Liam. Yea-yea-yea!” I was jazzed to realize something that seems obvious now: I’d started the story of my sibling characters in the wrong spot. Seems simple, but it’s huge. This realization also clarified a few other issues. I’m so relieved!

Sometimes it’s hard to know where a story begins. In fact, you can probably find dozens of writing workshops on this topic. It’s a toughy.

At Thanksgiving dinner I tried to explain all this, and R- asked me if I ever simply follow the direction of the writing. I thought I heard hesitance in her voice, as if she wondered whether she was over-stepping a boundary. In fact, she wasn’t, because I often yield to the surprise turn, when the characters catch me out with something I couldn’t have thought of on my own. I get excited, so I know it’s a good direction. However, this was a different situation. I was no longer excited about the first 120 pages; I’d lost track of the story’s heart.

So I count this as a step forward in my progress as a writer: Something felt wrong, and I paid attention. I put on the brakes, which is incredibly hard for me when I’ve set my sights on finishing a first draft in so many months. The past few weeks may feel “wasted” but surely they’re not. I have to have faith (BigD, you reading this?) that these past few weeks have saved me many more weeks worth of revision later in the process. Fingers crossed!

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