The writing process, particularly when the end result is a novel, is quite time consuming. An idea for a story pops into your head, normally by something someone else says or a conversation you overhear. You allow it to linger there for awhile, getting to know the characters. You determine what their likes and dislikes are. You form an image in your mind of what they look like. Maybe you give them a weird scar or haircolor – something to make them stick out to the reader. (And let’s face it, something that enables you to identify them while you’re still getting to know all the players.)
Storylines begin to work their way into your mind and you begin to craft sentences and chapters in your mind. All this occurs before you’ve even sat down to type a single word. And then, once you feel as though you know your characters well enough, you begin to write their story.
And that’s where the fun begins.
Whenever I begin a novel, the first half of the book goes quite smoothly. I’m able to develop my characters and I have a general sense of who they are and what they are going to do to make the reader love them, hate them or pity them. I also know, for the most part, how my story is going to end.
The unfortunate part for me is that during the writing process of each of my books I come to the part when I’m stumped. I know what I want to happen but I just can’t quite figure out how to get there.
This is when it gets messy and frustrating and I wonder why I began this journey.
I write several different scenarios, some of them far-fetched, while others may be plausible but they just don’t fit with the story. As I re-read and begin to edit, I’ll find that I’ve made a character do something completely out of character and when reading, it just doesn’t make any sense.
I will admit that I have quite a difficult time hitting the delete button. To me, there is a certain satisfaction in seeing the word count at the end of a sitting. To only delete paragraphs – even pages of words – at a later time is rather painful. But, in order to have a good book at the end of the process, these deletions are sadly necessary. And yes, I do realize that the entire process of writing a novel, including the tough part in the middle, is all part of creating a good book; one that people want to read and talk about with their friends.
So after completing this month’s blog, I will open the file that contains my latest novel and continue to crank out the words. I will struggle to find just the right words to enable my characters to tell their own story. I will sweat and swear and my hands will cramp up. I will open the thesaurus on my computer in order to find just the right word I’m looking for. You know the one. It’s the one that’s so close you can taste it but you just can get it to come out from the recesses of your mind.
And then, when I least expect it, probably when my kids need me to bake forty dozen cookies for a field trip the next day and there are loads of laundry to be done, I will have a breakthrough. The story will become crystal clear and the words will begin to flow. I will type ferociously until I am satisfied that the story I set out to tell has been written down in the best possible way.
And at some point in the near future, I will have a novel I can be proud of. A novel that all of you will want to read.
At least, that’s my hope. Wish me luck!
Donna Small is the author of two novels, Just Between Friends and A Ripple in the Water, both available from Second Wind Publishing.