A story begins with a dream. Not necessarily the kind that involves pajamas and firm mattresses, but the kind we all have, that waking moment when our minds go spinning into outer space imagining what could be instead of what is.
Once the story takes wing, the nuts and bolts of writing it involve more practical dreams. Sometimes those dreams are small. Maybe I can figure out whether to incorporate two scenes or three into my chapter. Maybe I’ll finally understand the motivation for a character’s actions.
But sometimes dreams are larger. For instance, maybe I’ll finish the entire outline of my next novel, filling in all the holes and developing half a dozen new scenes I can hardly wait to write.
Today is the day for that particular dream. My outline is two-thirds finished, but it has been for three days. I know how the story ends, after all I explained it to my publisher in the synopsis they accepted. So exactly what’s stopping me from moving forward?
Fear of having to write the chapters? No, I’m actually looking forward to revisiting my friends on Happiness Key. This book will be the sequel to the one by that name coming out in July. Wanda, Janya, Tracy, Alice and Olivia are just hanging together on the beach, waiting for me to visit again and give them voice. So fear of writing is not the problem.
How about this? Impending guilt. Once I dive into the pages, every moment I’m not writing, I will feel guilty. I know this from experience. A novel is like a freight train picking up speed. Faster and faster the wheels turn, only slowing when the station (the end) is just around the corner. Obstacles beware. This train will stop for fallen trees and sweet young things tied to the track, but then, at best, reluctantly.
No, guilt’s not my problem , either. Through the years I’ve learned ways to tame the guilt monster into submission. (A subject for another blog.) I think I can cope.
This time my problem is simply that I’ve dreamed too large. I have to narrow my dreams and center them. I have to figure out exactly what story I’m trying to tell and how everybody fits into it. Along the way, I have to let go of some of my best ideas.
You’ve read my novels, right? You know that letting go of anything is not my strong suit. I live for subplots and secondary characters. More is better. Long is best. But the realities of paper shortages, bookshelf shortages, and attention span shortages have put weighty tomes on a diet. In order to survive and thrive in the world of publishing, now we’re forced to lose those extra pounds. And just as losing weight might be good for my health, it’s probably good for my stories, too.
So no more procrastination for me. I’m off to finish the outline, a carefully thought out, toned and tanned version of the book swimming around in my head. And those extra ideas? The ones I’m forced to jettison?
Well, there’s always another novel. . .