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Finding the Right Trail

The Rich Writer: Finding the Right Trail

The Rich Writer

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Finding the Right Trail

It’s been a while since I was writing the first draft of a book—about eight months—and, as I wrote yesterday, the experience can be a bit unsettling. I’m big on outlining, so when I sit down to write a chapter, I kind of expect that the words will just roll out. After all, the plot made perfect sense when I put it together a few months ago.

Yeah. Have I ever mentioned that I’m occasionally optimistic to the point of being delusional?

Every time I write the first draft of a novel, it’s much harder to bring the pages to life than I expect. And every time, I’m surprised by this.

It took me a while yesterday to put my finger on what was wrong. I’d written a perfectly fine scene in which the main character’s father surprises her with a new bicycle. She hugs him, it’s touching, happy-happy joy-joy. My head said I should just keep on writing.

Luckily, I’m (slowly) learning to listen to my gut when it comes to writing, so instead of plowing onward (and wasting a lot of time) I kept poking at the story (well, and procrastinating, which is kind of like wasting time, except different. Sort of.) And eventually I made a breakthrough. I backed up the story, rewrote the previous scene to put Cass (the mc) in a much less pleasant situation, which naturally leads to tension when her father shows up, which naturally lets me explore her fears about their situation on this island….

To put it another way, the best way to tell the story is not always obvious. Sometimes you stumble onto the wrong path, and even though you’re pouring out the words, the writing loses its life and urgency. The trick is to trust the process—trust those hours when you don’t seem to be accomplishing anything—because if you just keep hacking at the problem, eventually you’ll have a breakthrough.

And meantime, you might even resort to desperate measures, like doing the laundry. Your family will be so astonished, they’ll probably take you out to dinner….

:) Cheryl

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