Finding The Way
After five tries I have finally gotten the most recent chapter of my book headed in the right direction. Five tries is a lot for me, and in the past this might have been a cause for anxiety up to and occasionally including the soul-draining belief that I will never finish another book again in my life. Not so this time, and my equilibrium has everything to do with having learned how I write books, which is what all writers are really doing when they sit down at the desk every day. The chapter in question involved two characters, my narrator and his friend, meeting a third character and the three of them travelling on together. I had planned from the beginning for this third character to be met and travelled with and had what I thought was a clear idea of who she was. Apparently I didn’t, because once they set off I found this trio standing in the middle of a very dangerous corner of the forest chatting away for pages at a time as if they had bumped into one another on a street corner in Mayberry.
The girl was doing most of the talking. It turns out she had a lot to tell me about herself, all of which I found quite interesting, none of which made for interesting fiction. So she would monologue for a few pages, and I would think, “Great. Now I know her;” and start again. Only to have her keep talking. It took four rounds of this before I finally knew enough about her to actually begin the chapter. At some point perhaps she will reveal to my readers what she revealed to me. Or maybe not. She told me her secrets, and that’s all that matters.
I considered this chapter a triumph of sorts because I understood right away what was happening and so was able to go along with it without worry. I had to learn what she taught me and this was how I learned it. When I was younger I might have tried to twist that information into a full scene because I had written it and to just take it out right away would be admitting a kind of defeat. That was back before I fully understood how I write books, back when I thought there was only one way to do it and I had to learn that way. That was agony. There are as many ways to write a book as there are writers, and trying to find The Way is like searching your closet for the shirt you are already wearing.
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