Skipping or Avoidance? A New Discovery Into My Writing Process

“The last piece of the puzzle but you cannot make it fit,” Howard Jones.

Funny how this line came up while I was starting this blog post about plot –but Ingrid does this so well that you should just read what she wrote.  But then I realized that what I’m talking about isn’t plot but the steps in the action that I had believed had to happen to make my story move forward, those pieces that were in my outline and summary that are/were part of my story’s overall arc.

I’ve been nearing the end of a intense draft of my novel and I’ve been struggling with the steps my protagonist has to take to find the thing that she needs to move forward. I knew what this thing was, but I felt like the steps were contrived, like I was putting her into a scenario that was not happening organically. I did not want this to become one of those chapters where the protagonist finds something and then finds the next thing and just moseys along until she gets that thing.

While at first I thought that it was boring to write the sequence of events because I already knew what was going to happen and part of the fun for me in writing is the discovery of what will be, I realized that (for me) it was me trying to fit my protagonist into something that wasn’t her. I needed to find another way around it without it becoming contrived or out of character or just plain dull. I’ve read a number of novels recently that do this and it is tedious to read and, clearly, (for me) tedious to write.

So this is what I did that seems to be working so I wasn’t manipulating my protagonist to get what I thought that I needed for the novel to work and got back to the fun of writing it.

1) I avoided skipped around the entire section. “Oh look at this other pretty scene towards the end of the novel that looks way more interesting than this one,” I said to my writer self, for  I figured that as long as I was still writing scenes the whole thing would organically come together. And this worked! For a while…sort of…

2) I dipped into the section I had avoided skipped around. Writing a few pages, jotting down ideas, etc. But there was that block. The “ugh” moment would come and I could just not get going on it.

I didn’t want to couldn’t deal with it.

3) I finished the end! (Crap! No, I mean… Yay!? )

4) So I sat with my protagonist for a while and realized the following:

  • I had secondary characters to help her out who can talk about the technical stuff that she would never know or say and even point her in the right direction.
  • I reminded myself of her desire, the thing that she wanted and needed most and what was happening to her emotionally at this point in the novel if she discovered this new piece.
  • I thought about how she would feel when finding these specific elements and how she would respond.

5) I’ve printed out the last half or so that I’ve written and have gone back to the section I skipped over around and…

 

Things started to happen!

It is quite exciting and frightening because I know once I finish this section the novel will be ready for the revision before I send it to my beta readers. Do you other writers do this? Think about what it means to be nearing the almost-end of the stage in the process?

There is something that I’ve been struggling with but try each day to think on which seems to also be apropos here.

 

It is true that the writing life teaches us much about actual living: patience, staying present, compassion. I had to honour this part of the process, sometimes you have to go around something in order to come back to it. I kind of knew that I was avoiding the section, but I also understood that maybe I needed to write the end before going back. While I knew the thing that my protagonist needed to do, I came to understand that I didn’t know everything about how she was going to get there and that is what is making this part fun again to write (and hopefully will be to read.) And, now, instead of worrying what the next stage is, I must stay present and keep writing now.

 

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About Melanie J. Fishbane

My novel, MAUD: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery was published in 2017 through Penguin Random House on April 25, 2017. I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Here I talk about my writing process, things I love, and creative people who inspire me.
This entry was posted in Inspiration, Talented Friends, Writing, Writing Life. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Skipping or Avoidance? A New Discovery Into My Writing Process

  1. Mary P. says:

    I think every advisor I had at VCFA would say that this:

    “I reminded myself of her desire, the thing that she wanted and needed most and what was happening to her emotionally at this point in the novel if she discovered this new piece.”

    is absolutely the key. I can get so far away from this when I’m trying to make plot mechanics work. I’m so glad you were able to focus on this and to find a way of drafting the story that’s working for you!
    (PS You know I’d LOVE to be one of those beta readers, right?? 😉

  2. L. Marie says:

    I needed to read this today, because I’m also struggling along with some scenes that feel somewhat contrived, but are necessary. I avoided them, then dipped into the writing and felt disgusted with the result. I lamented them, lamented myself, lamented the fact that I went into writing in the first place. Then I came back to the first scene with a fresh perspective. I celebrate with you on the completion of your novel!!

    • Thank you! Not completed yet and as we speak I’m having a discussion with a fellow writer on how to make these scenes work. I think this is the slowest part of the novel. I’m glad that this post helped you. I am doing this, but it is going slow.

  3. Jo Ann Yhard says:

    Melanie, the “go on without me” pic sent me into a laughing frenzy! LOVED IT!!! Oh, the angst and torture we endure! I can definitely relate to it!
    And the Peanuts one spoke to me, too, being a Peanuts freak…Oops I mean “aficionado” – sounds much more refined, doesn’t it? 🙂 And I definitely had to look up the spelling on that one – I was WAY OFF!! I would have thought it was spelled more like “officianado”…. but what do I know? Clearly, not much!

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