Strrange luck

Good prob­lems. I don’t know why — though it prob­ably has some­thing to do with reach­ing the end of the first draft of Proper Job — but my mind is turn­ing to aspects of the cre­at­ive pro­cess. Some writers don’t like to think too hard about these things; oth­ers write end­lessly about it. I’m some­where in between, I guess, but the one mys­tery that nev­er seems to resolve is this: Why does the story only get writ­ten when I’m writ­ing it? Why can’t I plan it first?

It prob­ably has some­thing to do with the chal­lenge. When you type into a blank Word doc­u­ment without any real notion of what you’re doing apart from genre and the ghost of a char­ac­ter or two, you take a big risk that the nov­el will wander down a blind alley and self-destruct. This cer­tainly cap­tures my atten­tion and engages whatever ‘writerly’ parts of my brain I’ve man­aged to devel­op so far. For instance, with Proper Job, I’m about to start the denoue­ment (Robert McKee prob­ably has a num­ber for this part of the story) and I know that I have to resolve the plot in two or three import­ant ways. Problem: I don’t know how I ‘m going to do it. A bad solu­tion is to wrench the plot in a new dir­ec­tion using a deus ex mach­ina, but this will cause my read­ers to throw the book across the room in dis­gust. The best solu­tion is to have the denoue­ment occur nat­ur­ally as part of the beha­viour of the char­ac­ters, includ­ing the his­tory of their beha­viour up to that point.

How do you do that so late in a book? Well, partly, that’s what a first draft is for. You can change stuff. But I expect things will just…well, fall into place. Something I’ve already writ­ten, months ago, will become rel­ev­ant and sug­gest a solu­tion. The read­er — if I’ve done my job right — will think “Ah, of course, that’s why such-and-such happened!” I, how­ever, will just be slightly per­plexed as I con­tin­ue writ­ing. Did I really know what I was doing at that point? Surely not. If I’m not con­sciously aware of the future of the nov­el, how can I be uncon­sciously aware of it? That seems absurd. The con­verse would be that the plot con­tains a num­ber of ambigu­ous points that can be rein­ter­preted later but I hon­estly think that there are very few of these. I’m care­ful to write fast-paced stuff, and there’s barely room in a mov­ing plot for that sort of thing.

So, mys­tery unre­solved. But make no mis­take: if I can’t get the denoue­ment to work, the entire book will det­on­ate and you’ll nev­er get to read it (not­with­stand­ing the usu­al dif­fi­culties with get­ting it pub­lished). I am, how­ever, con­fid­ent that there’s a denoue­ment there some­where, because I’ve always come up with one in the past. But how? Therein, I guess, lies the insec­ur­ity of the writer. What if the strange luck stops work­ing?

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *