Howdy, folks. I’m taking a short break from writing my version of the “Great American Novel” and thought I’d check in with ya.
I’ve been working on my latest book (writing and researching) for about four hundred years now. Well, maybe I exaggerate a mite, but you get my drift. It’s what some might call an epic. Me, I just call it a story. A long story, but still only a story. It’s about three generations of one family, blah, blah, blah.
Anyway, here’s the deal. Something happened this go-round that has never happened to me before. It was kinda weird. And if I may, I’d like to tell you about it.
So, I get up to around 163,000 words and I’m going strong. I got the words, man! They’re just flowin’. I mean, no problem—no problem whatsoever. No down days, unless you count the days I took off to spend time with my vodka collection. And there were many of those, I gotta admit.
I get to chapter forty-two (my chapters are averaging 4,500 words) and I bang it out in one setting. One hour … BOOM! and it’s on paper. I’m a friggin’ genius! I take the rest of the day off and get drunk so I can channel my inner Francis S. Fitzgerald.
The next morning, I sit down at the computer and start the next chapter. I write about two thousand words and figure that’s enough for the day. Maybe I’ll go for a walk. Maybe I’ll visit that nice lady down the street and engage her in a conversation about Steinbeck and what he was thinking when he wrote The Winter of Our Discontent. What was his thinking when he wrote that ending?
I awoke the next morning with dread in my heart. I realized that everything I’d written the previous day sucked. Sucked big-time.I was leading my main character down the wrong road! What was I thinking? So I deleted that chapter and I stared at the computer for three … maybe four days. Nothing! So much for being a genius.
On day five, I knew where I was gonna take my guy, and I took him there.
The next day I deleted everything, again. This chapter was proving to be a bitch. It was back to staring at the computer screen, wishing I had become a plumber like my momma wanted me to.
Here I sit—fourteen days from the last time I wrote anything decent. But today I think I finally got it. Or, more to the point, my protagonist has finally shown me the way. It wasn’t until we got to where he wanted to go, that the words started to flow onceagain.
The moral of my pitiful story is … let your characters do the thinking. Your job is to follow where they lead.
At least it works for me.