Writers everywhere work and work with one main goal in mind: finish the book and get it to an editor or a publisher. Yesterday, I typed the last chapter of my current WIP into my computer. That doesn’t mean it’s polished and ready to go, but the first draft is finished. I thought I would feel wonderful, on cloud nine, ready to conquer the world, or at least kick an ass or two.
Not so. Of course, I did feel wonderful about reaching the end, but there was another aspect to it. I’d just left my characters, whom I’d grown to love, and wouldn’t be seeing them again for a while. The story, which is the third in a cozy mystery series, was complicated, involved the making of lists such as clues connected to red herrings and to the main mystery, a timeline for events and characters, and a list of characters, among other things. I will go back to the mss and edit and make changes, but the free-flowing part, the initial creation of the story, is over with.
I felt lost and adrift on a tiny island with no connection to anything. It was as if I had no phone, no one around me, and faced a bleak future.
But that doesn’t make sense as I’m a person who works on more than one book during any given period of months, although, one is usually primary. I knew I had to get rid of that feeling, but first I had to retire for the night as I had to go to work the next day.
So, on Friday I had breakfast, picked up the current mystery I’m reading, and then went to work. Well, work is a relative term. I actually volunteer on Fridays for the place where I used to work, answering the phone, which almost never rings. Since they don’t pay me, they allow me to do whatever I want, as long as I’m there to pick up the phone.
On Fridays I always bring material with me connected to at least one of my books. Since Murder by Spook is now finished (the first draft), I brought along the last two chapters of Widow’s Walk, a time travel thriller/romance I’ve been working on, even though my mindset wasn’t geared up for that book.
I started out with a cup of coffee with caffeine (I don’t have that at home), boosted up my energy level and, hopefully, my brain, and re-read the last two chapters. As I did that, ideas started generating and I began writing the next chapter. When I finished the chapter, shortly before leaving for the day, I realized I’d added something to the story that would necessitate some major changes to the entire book. Normally, I’d cringe at the idea of changes of that magnitude, but not this time. It made me excited, anxious to work on the mss, to send my characters in the new direction which, I feel and hope I’m right, is a much better one than the original.
While I haven’t done more work on Widow’s Walk this evening, I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about the original plot and the changes I just made. Why am I so excited about those changes? Why don’t I want to return to what I had originally? I’d been quite happy with the way it was going, although at times it was a struggle to come up with the next scene.
I think we’ve all heard about those characters who refuse to go where we tell them, or who refuse to do what we tell them to do. They go out on their own, creating new pathways and experiences, and some of them even work.
Analyzing such instances, I would usually claim it’s the writer consciously or unconsciously realizing there’s a better way to go. But sometimes, if you breathe enough life into a character, or characters, they darn near come to life. In this case, I actually feel my characters have become more vibrant, more lifelike, and more real. For the time being, at least, I’m going to go in this new direction, and shush myself up when I complain about all the work I just handed myself.
Joan K. Maze
Writing as J. K. Maze