I’ve posted several times this summer about my frustration with my current book. I compared my writing a few weeks ago to swimming in murky water. I’ve not been able to pinpoint my problem, or to discover where the lethargy is coming from, and I’ve been trying to work it out through these posts. I thought maybe it was fear of failure. I knew it wasn’t writer’s block – I’ve been writing – it just hasn’t felt inspired lately. I even thought my method for planning might be the issue. The last few mystery books I’ve written, I have completed a scene outline for about ¾ of the book and left the ending wide open. I’ve stated before that I like to discover the murderer along with the police because it feels more authentic. However, recently, I’ve been wondering if that method is no longer working for me. It’s as if I’m feeling around in the dark for my plot.
Finally, two nights ago, sitting at the dinner table with my husband, an epiphany. Before I share my train of thought, I’ll give you some background. My husband is an investigator with the Indiana State Police. He’s not one to come home and talk shop (although I wish that were the case) but he’s an excellent resource. He’s the first person to read my finished book. I share pieces with my writing group, but Todd is my first reader of the completed first draft. I want him to see the investigation unfold from a cop’s point of view, and to point out all of the details a real cop would have caught – that a mystery writer wouldn’t have. Invariably he catches mistakes. But, until the book is completely finished I don’t share anything. It’s developed into a superstition at this point.
A few nights ago though, I told him about a climax scene that had been in the back of my mind for some time, but I said I was afraid to write it because I wasn’t sure I had the skill to pull it off. He gave me a funny look, and basically said, what are talking about? Just write it. Don’t you revise everything anyway? Somehow, hearing my ultra-common-sense black-and-white husband approach it so simply gave me the confidence I needed. We finished dinner and I went outside for my evening walk and thought through the whole scene. I plugged in my ipod, cranked up the Cowboy Junkies to get the atmosphere in my head just right, and I thought about murder and chaos. It was bliss!
I wrote 1,000 words that night and got up the next morning at 5:30 and picked it up again. It’s why I love writing – it’s such a roller coaster. There are times when things get grim, but I know intuitively that if I keep pushing and writing my daily quota, that eventually I will work through the kinks and the writing will flow once again. The manic highs are worth it.
Granted, I haven’t written the climax scene yet, but if I can pull it off, I will cinch my belief that waiting to plan the end of the book until the rest of the book is written is the best plan of action- at least for me. Looking at the scene now it’s a bit of a slap to the head. It is such an obvious conclusion because it pulls all the narrative threads together into one last hurrah. But I would have never seen it coming when I wrote the first outline.
Now, I can’t wait to get back to the story. What a lovely feeling. I wonder how many other hobbies provide that sense of satisfaction when all the disparate pieces finally fit together so perfectly?