A simple day, today. After the social butterflying and story completion of yesterday, it was time for a return to the word mines, and an attempt to get some serious traction on Ghost Tracks.
Having spent the last 4 days staring out at the same view, I decided to pack up my computer and head into the nearby town of Midland to write, just for the change of scenery. It worked: I managed 2500 words, and shaped up the next part of the narrative, so that the next day or two of writing should come as easily as today’s.
That represents an important turning point for me: I’m not a plotter, which means that I rarely have more than a general sense of where I’m going in the short term. I usually know where I want to end up– I have the ending of this novel all sewn up, for example– but the details of the journey are often only discovered very shortly before the characters find out. In loose terms, my writing comes to me in three stages:
- The big picture: I’ve got a story to tell. I know how it begins ( A boy derails a ghost train, and has to travel to the ghost world to make amends). I know how it ends (Oh, it’s so good. It’s so great. You didn’t think I’d actually tell you here, did you? 😉 ). I know the overarching reason behind the narrative (There’s this [REDACTED] named [REDACTED] , and s/he wants to [REDACTED] by[REDACTED] a [REDACTED]). And that’s pretty much it.
- The lilypads: like a frog trying to cross the Great Lakes, I know where I’m sitting. I can see maybe one, maybe two actions ahead. I know the lake is freaking enormous. I’m trusting that there are enough lilypads to get me across. before this morning, I’d written roughly a third of the novel. Paul, my protagonist, and Aoife, his sidekick, had escaped the first major set piece of the story, and had reached a surprise location. I know I want them to reach a completely different location by the time the novel turns towards the climax. How they get there, not so much.
- The details: all the fun bits to write, like dialogue, and new characters, and the bricks that make the wall that make the tower. Two days ago, did I know there would be a monster? And a family of abandoned children who lived in a cubby house they’d built from their memories? And that the monster would prove to be not a monster at all, but possibly the biggest victim in the whole book? Nope, nope, and uh-uh. But this is the fun thing, for me: the discoveries I make along the way. the surprises and magical moments where my subconscious tape me on the shoulder, and says “Hey, Rocky…”
And as we all know, the fun lies in the fact that it’s never a rabbit.
Yesterday, one of my junior interrogators asked me whether I wrote books so that I could read exactly the kinds of books I wanted to read. And the answer is yes, because I experience the excitement and wonder that a reader does, at pretty much exactly the same time. If I planned everything out, I’d already know, and what would be the point of writing it out?
Today was a good day, with excitement, and danger, and really cool things. Tomorrow? Who knows? But half the fun is getting there.