Monday, April 30, 2012

A Challenge for This Writer

No, it's not a very good story - its author was too busy listening to other voices to listen as closely as he should have to the one coming from inside. 
Stephen King

Perhaps my interpretation of this quote is not what Stephen King intended.  I see it as affirmation to follow my instincts.  To listen to that inner voice.  Write the story that has grabbed hold; too impatient to wait its turn.  My inner voice is telling me to stop one story to tell another.

Several months ago, an inspiration came to me for a new novel.  The timing was not good.  I jotted down the ideas for the book and continued with my work in progress. 

I had blown the dust off a manuscript− the sequel to my novel, Old Broad Road.  I was roughly three-quarters through the first draft when I had to tuck it away, due to other writing commitments.  Soooo close to The End that I could feel it...taste it. 

Now with the hard copy of the unfinished manuscript in hand, I foolishly began editing the completed chapters.  If I was going to read the story anyway−to get back into the characters heads−I might as well make necessary changes at the same time.  Right?  Not a good idea. 

In hindsight, I should have jumped right back into the story and continued writing where I left off.  Always something to be said for hindsight.

Editing is a slow process.  The total opposite to how I write.  The thread of continuity unravelled.  Readers familiar with my first book (as yet unpublished), constantly asked about the sequel.  They were impatient to re-connect with the characters and the story etched in their minds.

 In the meantime, the plot of the new novel continued to brew just beneath the surface.  Thoughts swirled, coagulated, and lodged like immovable sludge. 

Finally, like giving in to an unrelenting child, I pecked out the first chapter.  It was a commitment to the story.  A promise to return.  In truth, I was anxious to return.  Excited!

Writing the first chapter did not quell my anxiety.  It enhanced my ache to begin.  A writer friend sensed my predicament.  Your heart is not in this, she said.  Start the other novel. 

It is not an easy decision to put my sequel back in the drawer.  With my fervour to begin the new book, there is no choice.  I am sure other writers have faced this dilemma.  Unfinished manuscripts lurk in desk drawers everywhere.

I will begin my project by researching the genre of my new book: psychological suspense.  My normal writing style won’t work for this type of novel−the flying by the seat of my pants strategy.  Pantser is the term for this type of writer.  I just learned that recently.  I am a pantser.

No, this genre requires planning and plotting.  I have to work out the story in advance in order to proceed.  Something I have never done.  Not even with a short story.  I am not sure if it’s possible for me.

Should I follow my instincts?  Accept the challenge? 

Are you with me?  Really?

Then I have nothing to lose. 


  1. I often find thoughts and musings written down on my paystub envelopes saved. Recently I found a $50 bill under my tv. Once I decided to go for a drive on the weekend and ended up in Brandon Manitoba. And NO..I never made it to work on the following Monday. One time, while visiting my sister in Edmonton, I walked downtown and right through what they called, Tent City. There I was with my ripped jeans, cut-off T-shirt, my tat showing and wearing my BoB Marley Banadana. My sister was furious with me for going to such a dangerous place by myself.
    You follow "IT" where it takes you. Either that or just walk on the side walk like everyone else :-)

  2. Hmmm....if you ever write a book, I'd like to read it!

  3. Follow your muse, Phyllis. The new novel could be a sign that you're looking for something more creative. The new direction might help the editing when you come back to it.

    1. Ryan, I hope it is easier to follow my muse than it was trying to put it on hold. Maybe I do need something more creative. I never thought of it that way.