Something I read recently reminded me that writers, ‘real writers’ (whatever that phrase means) write because they have to write. Even if no one ever reads their work, or hates their work, or everyone lauds their work, they write. Why? Well, because writing is really like breathing, absolutely necessary for life.
I’ve always written. Characters romp through my head and through my dreams and writing them down is the only way to get them out of my head. This is why I have a gazillion muse bombed manuscripts hanging around my house, and my kids know the stories I tell in all their variations. Except for a very few short years when my babies were young and I was struggling with a long term potentially crippling illness, I have written. My muse spews stories from one end to the other in a mostly linear line (well, most of the time, anyway; I can’t say the Finder is following this pattern) and I rush to keep up with the scenes running full cinema through my head. But can I say this thing I call writing actually adding something to the world? There are days I don’t know, days that I think that my writing is just a series of vignettes, not a story that shows how and why the character changes.
Let me explain. Recently, I read Write Your Novel From the Middle. James Scott Bell argues that there is a moment in every character’s life when they look in the mirror and have to face the big choice, and that moment both sets up the whole question and drives the change for the rest of the book.
The novel manuscripts I’ve finished all have this ‘mirror moment’. I can find it. I know exactly why it is there, and how it causes the rest of the story to unfold. For Desie, my main character in CHOICE OF DESTINY, it was the moment when she chose to use what she knew to protect her two very young sons from being murdered by the Usurper Emporer. The rest of the story is her accepting her destiny as a result of that choice.
In THE DUODECA PROJECT it is that moment when Jo realizes that only the information in her head will be able to stop the coming pandemic, if she is willing to face the cost.
In THE FINDER, it is the moment when Isabelle accepts her own truth, and choses to use her skills to save herself and the woman caught with her. Everything after that moment unfolds because she decides to fight to save herself.
The manuscripts that are still in muse bombed pieces don’t have that moment, or the moment isn’t clear. The lack of mirror moment totally explains why they are 60k word long vignettes and not finished novels. Just learning this concept is helpful, because now I can see how to fix them. I understand how to make them coherent wholes, with beginning and end. That is exciting, and helpful, even if it is a little daunting. I don’t regret writing them; they are huge vignettes of characters I love to hang out with. I had to write them because writing is like breathing for me. But, if I want to make them into pieces that will be ready to launch into the world, they need work to have more than just vignettes. In the end, that is a good thing to learn.