Follow the spark
Once upon a time, a writer wrote a book full of twists and surprises, about dragons and werewolves, mothers and lost children, loves and betrayals. The first draft was completed in the rush of blood called NaNoWriMo, and for once the writer was so pleased with her story that she stuck with it and started the laborious process of revising and beautifying.
The plan was to finish this process loooong before Nano rolled around again the following November, which would leave her plenty of time to plan the next novel, which would be a continuation of this exciting story.
Can you guess what happened next? Or rather, didn’t happen?
Yes, that’s right, I didn’t finish the revision. I still have seven scenes to go. As November loomed closer I began pushing myself to plan the next novel while still madly revising – not an impossible task, certainly, but every time I tried I ran up against the same problem. I knew, in very large terms, what needed to happen, but everything I loved about the first book was missing. The twists and mysteries were what made the first book exciting for me, but they’d all been revealed, and the second book would be a much more straightforward “kill the baddies, win the battle” affair.
And I couldn’t think of any way to make it interesting enough that I wanted to write it.
I’m sure, ultimately, I will be able to, but with mere days left in October I knew I couldn’t come up with anything in time. It looked like I’d have to sit Nano out this year.
Then, on the 30th of October (why do I do this to myself?), I thought: Self, don’t be such a piker. Why don’t you just write something else?
Oh, sure. Last year I was so organised. You should have seen me! I had characters, plot twists – scenes planned out on index cards. Me, the ultimate pantster, and I even had an outline! I was so proud of myself. No more flailing around in the dark! And Nano had gone so smoothly as a result.
And now here I was, getting ready to buy a ticket on the express to Flailsville again. What was I thinking?? I didn’t even have an idea. What could I possibly find to write about in one day?
Well, said the little voice, you always said you wanted to write a version of the fairy tale Toads and Diamonds. Even as a kid, though I’d loved it, it seemed to end too soon. But what happened next? Maybe I should write it and find out.
A little spark of excitement flared. Okay, get out a pen and piece of paper, and write down half a dozen different ways you could approach it. Change the sisters to brothers? Set it in an unusual location? Tell the story from the “bad” sister’s point of view?
Soon I had a bunch of ideas and a whole lot more excitement going on, and that’s what decided me. Write the book I felt I should write, or the one I now really wanted to write?
Easy decision. Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re not bursting with excitement at the beginning, the chances of making it to the end aren’t good. When you have two (or more) ideas to choose between, go with the one that sparks for you.
So that’s how I came to be 13,361 words in to Attack of the Fairy Tales, a novel I had no inkling of a week ago. I’m living in downtown Flailsville again – crazy place, but a lot of fun sometimes.
So there’s my writing tip for the week: follow that spark!