That part of the novel-writing process where you find ways to avoid writing the stuff that you don’t yet understand
Posted by R. H. Kanakia on March 22, 2014
Sometimes, when I get to a point where (but not all) of a novel is working well, I’ll experience a curious sort of circularity in the writing process. Things will really be clicking for awhile, and then the whole thing will go slack. And then I’ll make a titanic effort and sort of figure out something to do, and then the novel will click for a little bit longer before going slack again. And I can continue this for as long as I want, and the stuff I write will all be sort of good, but the whole thing won’t have any sort of coherence. It’ll just never really come together.
I’ve come to realize that this is basically avoidance behavior. Sometimes my mental conception of a novel is lopsided. I’ll have a really good idea of what’s going on in one part of the novel (one setting or milieu or plotline or family), but haven’t really thought out what’s going on in the other one. So every time I get to the other part, everything will feel off and I’ll wonder why the book isn’t clicking anymore.
Since the human instinct is to avoid discomfort, I’ll do my best to avoid actually thinking about the problem (which would entail admitting that part of my novel is–at least at the moment–conceptually flawed) and instead I’ll concoct some cockamamie way of circling the book back around to the part where I do understand what’s going. And that sort of works for awhile, except eventually the book gets so lopsided–so unable to paper over the absence of part of what was supposed to make it work–that I literally cannot go on with it any further.
At that point, I usually take to my bed with many tears and self-recriminations, and say to myself, “But everything I’ve written is so good! And it all makes perfect sense! I don’t understand what the problem is!”
And then, over the course of several days, I’ll realize that the problem is in what I haven’t written. And then I’ll need to go back and think it through, and–although I’ll usually manage to save most of what I’ve already written–I’ll inevitably find out that you can’t actually write one plotline of a novel without knowing what’s going on in the other plotline, so I’ll have to throw some stuff out.
But eventually it’ll all come together.
Actually, it often poses an interesting creative problem: trying to create something in one half of the novel that justifies something I’ve already created in the other half of the novel. It’s shocking the sort of interesting solutions that your imagination will hand you if you back it into a corner.
Which is another way of saying that Whimsical Children’s Novell just collapsed again. Boo hoo. Woe is me. Woe!
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