Yes! The House of Star is done!
There are still edits and tweaks, of course, but right now I must CELEBRATE!
If anyone needs me, I’m the unconscious pile of writer in the corner, completely drained of life.
So, you’re writing a book. Along comes this idea that kicks you in the pants and decides that you should be writing it NOW. You’ve tried ignoring it. You’ve tried reasoning with it. Heck, you’ve tried hacking it to pieces.
What do you do when you are plagued by a persistent story?
Often, the best way to get rid of an idea, or at least buy yourself some breathing room to finish your current project is to make notes on whatever new ideas won’t leave you in peace.
This is a double-edged sword, however. Sometimes, making notes that are too detailed can pull you out of your current world, sabotaging your work-in-progress.
What? Another idea? Yes!
A new idea will make this persistent story idea less shiny and attractive. Also, it will stretch your brain thin, hopefully to the point of exhaustion, so it will stop coming up with more ideas.
Just be careful not to come up with a better idea, or you’ll be in the same situation.
Some people sketch. Other people draw. I usually fiddle with photoshop because I couldn’t draw a stick figure to save my life. Whatever your preference, do art unrelated to writing.
It’s basically like telling the idea “I’m ignoring you… la~ la~ la~”.
Sometimes an idea isn’t different from your current story. Maybe it is an element that should be included. Embrace that little noisy bastard and see if there is room for it in your book. Who knows? Maybe your book needs it.
It happens. Occasionally, an idea is just too good… or just too annoying… to ignore. Go write it. Come back to your other work later.
Keep in mind that many good books die here, ditched for the shininess of another book. Then again, sometimes you are distracted because this book simply isn’t working for you. Either way, you will eventually need to sit down and get to your ending no matter what book you settle on.
Who knows? Maybe your old story will learn to be just as annoying.
The end of your book is there, waiting for you in the distance.
When you start out, it is too far to see. You must know that it is there and trust that you will navigate the treacherous path, avoiding pitfalls like doubt, fear and dreaded writer’s block. Even as you go, a strange fog blankets the landscape of your work.
Whether this is your first time or your twenty-fifth, it is still unnerving. Will it be there? Or will this finally be the time when you are left standing at the edge of a canyon, staring at the gaping hole in your narrative where your ending should be?
Many writers solve this problem by simply knowing how the book will end in advance. In fact, they nail down every character, every plot point… every needle on every pine tree before they even begin. They carry a satellite phone, GPS and have Army Rangers on call. Nothing scares those writers. Nothing stops them. They power through and charge right up that mountain to the finish line.
If you’re anything like me… well, let’s just say that you didn’t even pack one of those cheap cracker jack toy compasses. The mystery of the journey… the adventure of not knowing what will come next… that is your calling. You are as addicted to it as an adrenalin-riddled, base-jumping junkie.
The reward amid the chaos is this: you can still be surprised by your own work.
Betrayal? Surprise! A hidden history? Gotcha! The bad guy isn’t really the bad guy? Well, you had me fooled.
That’s right, fool yourself, fool your reader. It doesn’t sound like a safe way to go and it certainly is the farthest thing from predictable. However, I can tell you this: Once you start, you will never go back.
There are risks from this kind of foolish behavior. You could kill your book. Your book could be terrible. You could wind up with a concussion after banging your head against the keyboard hard enough to knock yourself unconscious.
Instead of giving into this fear…
A sheer wall of fog lies before you. A string of events lay in your wake, leading to this moment. You know the mountain is there. So, you take a step forward.
Your foot could pass through the mist and hit nothing. You would fall to your doom.
Your foot could just as easily strike a nice clean path, right up that mountain to the most glorious of peaks.
The truth usually lies somewhere in between. Sometimes you must build the mountain yourself. But, how do you do that?
There is only one way. A single step at a time. Set your foot where you want the mountain to be, then put your weight down. Did you rise? Did the path of your story move a foot? Good. Take another step.
You are shaping the mountain now. Eventually the fog may clear, revealing details of the mountain all on its own, but the scary truth of the matter is this:
That mountain didn’t really exist. It wasn’t there to uncover. You actually built it in your mind, using your instinct of where it should be if it were there. It was just fog.
So, what path should you take? The safe, marked path? Or will you go for the fog? Only you know how your mind works. Just remember that, if you are lost in the fog, build your mountain. Create your own finish line. Don’t let the absence of certainty kill your book.