I’ve taken a few days off from writing, mostly because I was spending time with my family, and I had to write something for my father-in-law’s service and that required a lot of focus and energy. I’ve also had a lot of grading to catch up since I was gone the whole week before my father-in-law died.
I spent quite a bit of time on Sunday catching up, and today (Monday) being a holiday, I chose to work on my stuff. I worked on the new novel, but it was feeling cumbersome and too dark for me, so I decided to let some new characters come in and talk with me. Wow – what a rush that was. They have been waiting patiently in the wings for their chance to tell me their story, and they’ve been very well-behaved. But I cut them lose today, and they had a great deal to tell me about their story.
I got very energized, and I scribbled notes frantically about the story and about the characters. I always do a character worksheet on my main characters and try to find out as much about them as I can before I start trying to tell their story. I can’t really capture the voice of the character – which is really important to me and something that critics of my first novel said I did well – unless I know a lot of information about the characters first.
From there, I create a rough draft of a plot worksheet. It’s a rough draft because I know it will change as I learn more about the characters and their circumstances. But I need to feel like I know where I’m going before I set out on the journey. To me, it’s like having a road map before you take a trip: you might not fully know every single pit-stop along the way, but at least you’ve got the name of the city you hope to end up in.
Sometimes things surprise me, though. I had a specific ending in mind for the novel that comes out next spring – “The Deepest Blue” – but the main character pulled a switch on me during the final two chapters, and it made more sense to follow that line than the one I had drafted originally.
I played around with the plotting worksheet this evening, and this new story is looking to be a lot of fun. I wrote the first ten pages of the new story, and I like the voice of the characters and the sense of direction. Normally, I don’t switch projects when I’m in the middle of one, so I’m going to have to determine which book gets my immediate attention and limited writing time. I have found that if I switch back and forth too much, the books don’t ever get finished. I’ve got three novels that got interrupted like that, and I haven’t gone back to finish them because I don’t want to try and pick up in the middle and try to reconnect with the characters and the story. I know a lot of writers who can work on three and four stories at a time, but my brain doesn’t work that way. My process is to finish the one that is half-way done now, then come back to this new idea later. That really does work best for me.
But it was fun to work on the new story, and it was fun to meet these new characters and hear what they had to say. It felt good to work on something upbeat and to put the past few weeks behind me for a few hours.
I’ve got a school visit coming up the end of this month, and it will be nice to have a new project to talk about. Now, it’s back to grading essays, and then to bed because it’s already past my bedtime.