It’s probably apparent just in how little I’ve written in this writing blog that I’ve not been writing as much as I would like to. In part due my mother’s death last November… in part lots of focus on my own health since… but in part just having had a terrible time getting some writing momentum going again.
I have been making a bit more progress lately, however. I think that just as with exercise (something I’m getting a lot of these days, for once in my life), writing can be difficult & painful to begin, & takes effort even once you do — but once you do, it becomes its own reward, & it’s easier to keep going.
But it’s also about tapping into the Mystery.
From an email I just wrote, responding to someone who reported being challenged by going beyong the ideas, the beginning, even the middle of a novel, to the end:
I don’t know if I’ve got any suggestions per se… I’m sorta wrestling with the same issue, though from a slightly different direction. With the main thing I’m working on, a fairly complex novel called Mistress of Woodland (MoW for short), I’ve had the basic plot for several years. It started out as my portion of a shared story that I wrote primarily to write my way through a really bad part of my life. When I got done with it as “shared story,” I realized I had the raw makings of a novel. So I’ve been working on reshaping it since.
That meant tackling a whole host of writing problems, including the use of a couple of characters that didn’t belong to me & other “proprietary” issues regarding the shared story world I’d originally written in; creating new characters to replace other people’s shared story characters that I don’t want to use; stylistic considerations; folding in necessary backstory about the main plotline that hadn’t been necessary in the original story (because that was all covered by other posts I wrote on the email list I’d been on where the shared story was written).
I’m pretty happy with what I’ve done with it, but I find it hard to keep up the work sometimes when I already know the end. The secret for me in keeping my enthusiasm alive, not to mention the writing itself, is to be able to keep discovering stuff. If I know everything that’s going to happen in a given scene before I write it, the scene goes flat, & it’s just plain uninteresting. So I always have to find something in it that is new to me as I write. That can be tricky.
Well, maybe that would be a piece of advice then. If you have problems with getting through to endings, and maybe sometimes middles, might it be that somewhere you’re losing that sense of discovery? What is it that excites you about the ideas when you first get them, that carries you through the beginning of the novel, & when & why does that excitement get lost? It’s got to do something with losing the feeling of “what’s gonna happen next? what’s gonna happen next?” that carries a reader right through a good book, & I think really needs to carry a writer through the writing too, even the hard sloggy bits. So how can you restore that sense of Mystery, & you as the uncoverer of Mystery?
I’m not talking just detective novel Mystery, though that too. Really, isn’t it all about that? Whether it’s a detective novel or science fiction or fantasy or mainstream (whatever that is), or a love story, or whatever in hell, whether it’s character-driven or a plot-driven, or even whether its a novel or a short story or a poem or a nonfiction piece of whatever length, if there’s no sense of Mystery that you’re tapped into, what’s the point?
What’s really cool is that when I tap into that sense of Mystery as I write, I am usually able to retain it in the editing & the re-reading as well.