Back when I started this blog, I intended to write about the process of writing a novel, but I also knew that I would be happy just to establish a regular publishing schedule. I think I have nailed that second part, and I am proud and glad of it, having seen many promising blogs dash themselves on the rocks of poor follow through, driven there by the waves of good intention. (I can mangle a metaphor with the best of them, yes?)
And yet, it has been quite a while since I have written about writing because it has been a while since I have worked on my book.
The reasons for this are many. Some are impressive-sounding, writerly reasons – I was struggling with the narrative order, I had lost track of my voice, I had writer’s block. Some are not impressive at all – I was too busy toiling for money, my fingers were tired, my brain was tired.
Last fall I went to a writers’ retreat. I brought the skeleton outline of my novel, written out on Post It notes, one note per chapter. I had broken it down this way because while I was stuck and could not figure out how to move forward, I knew moving forward would have something to do with changing the narrative order and, in the process, injecting some much-needed conflict and suspense into the plot. So, okay, that’s easy to do, right?
In my critique session we didn’t talk much about my sample, but instead I threw myself on the mercy of the coach and explained what I was really struggling with. She made a few shrewd recommendations and sent me back to my room with a whiteboard. I stayed up until the wee hours that night moving the post-it notes around on the whiteboard, scratching down ideas about the narrative, moving post-its some more, scratching some more … by the time I went to bed I can’t say I was fully confident that I knew what to do next, but I had some new ideas and it seemed as if the logjam was starting to break up.
Fast forward to this spring. The organizers of the retreat arranged a reunion – and asked us all to send new samples. Spurred by the desire to have something to show the writing coach, I opened up my manuscript and was suddenly able to see the new structure clearly – clearly enough to bang out the first 2,500 words of it within an hour. Twenty-five hundred well-received words, I might add. My coach had some constructive criticism, but also some delightful praise. Turns out I can kind of write.
Back in the saddle indeed.