On Being Late, Showing Up, and Figuring out the Story

I'm late this week!

We took a road trip on Sunday. And then I thought I could make it up on Monday, but I found myself submerged in my day job (editing and transcription obligations).

Later on tonight, I'm taking a medication so that when I go to the dentist tomorrow, I will not be afraid. Then an hour before the procedure, I'll be taking another round of this drug. I have no idea how this medication is going to impact me. I just know that Mike has to drive me, and I've told him to make sure that when they do the procedure, there's a dog on my lap. (There are two dogs that work at my dentist's office.)

The world feels weird this week.

So let me just share one thing.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about a character who I knew had to be in the story, but I was having trouble figuring out where. I thought she was going to show up early in Book 2, but she asked to come in later. I thought we were talking about Book 2, but I later figured out she meant Book 3. I think that's right. For a while, in this first draft, I was writing two versions of chapters because I couldn't figure out whether she was meant to be here at this point or not.

I confided my process to Mike.

“No,” he said, “That can't be right.”

“I have to do it,” I told him, “until I can figure out the story.”

I have to say that I'm still glad that I spend my time brainstorming and outlining before I start writing my draft. Sometimes I have to laugh because when I start writing linearly, I always think I have it figured out, and then my characters rebel. But it still anchors me, even when I have to change it.

And then it became clear. How did I know what to do? I'm not quite sure. I think my other characters told me that they needed more room to sing. It's funny. When I originally envisioned this character, I imagined her connected to one of the characters, and then I changed it. In Book 3, she'll have her original affiliation. Thinking about it now, it makes complete sense. At least right now it does. I reserve the right to change my mind.

This process reminds me of something I went through with Book 1 of this series. In that draft, I struggled with the ending. I actually sent the draft off to my beta readers and then realized it wasn't right. I had ended it on a note that didn't was mid-stanza. I needed to finish the song. I fought it. I felt that it would slow down my schedule, as now my beta readers wouldn't be able to finish what I had written because I hadn't written it yet. That felt embarrassing to me. And it felt like I had to write a lot more, and I wanted to be done, and it wasn't coming out easily. So how could it be right? I had to rewrite it many times.

But in the end, I was really glad I had listened to myself, even though I hadn't wanted to. I think the ending is my favorite part of Book 1. I really don't like having favorites, but I do have a soft spot for those moments at the end.

And this is what I think writing does. It trains you to listen to yourself, to trust yourself. It allows you to make “mistakes.” It lets you know that you can circle around as many times as you need until it feels right all the way down to your bones.

When we took the road trip, I didn't know if I would be able to write the blog on Sunday. I probably should be more disciplined to make sure that that happens, but right now, I'm not there yet. But I do have to say that I did a double writing session on my draft on Saturday. I told Mike that I would so I wouldn't feel cranky on a day we went out of town.

“But aren't you always a bit cranky?” he asked.

He teased. A bit.

But I knew that I would be seriously off if I didn't get that work in. And this week, although I'm late, and I thought of just not writing a post because we took a road trip and I'm about to take drugs so that I don't freak out at the dentist, and I'm going through a procedure tomorrow, and there's always work to do. But in the end, I had to do it. It just doesn't feel right not to. So I thank you for reading, and I'll see you next week, hopefully on Sunday. That is my plan.