You know how, when you don’t see someone’s kids, it comes as a shock when you hear how old they are? In your mind, you picture them as four or five and then you find out they’re nine or ten. At least, that happens to me. My mind hangs on to the last time I saw them and doesn’t add nearly enough of the years that have passed. For some reason, it must work the opposite for writing. Friends always think I should be further along than I am. Words don’t accumulate as fast as they should. I plot and I plod.
I admit I’m lucky. At least my friends ask about my writing. They encourage it. They often ask, “How’s the writing going?” And they always expect me to have made great progress. I expect it, too, but tortoises don’t impress.
I’m up to 50,000 words in my mystery. I need at least 20,000 more. And this is the time–in every manuscript–when I panic. I look at my last remaining plot points, and I just KNOW that I don’t have enough ideas to meet my word count. The worry and sense of foreboding almost always makes me go to bed, sure I’m doomed, and wake up the next morning with new ideas for scenes. It happened three nights ago. I fell asleep thinking about places to add another twist, a new turn, and woke up with a new character and clue. (And yes, my husband’s used to my living with characters walking around in my head. He takes it in stride.)
The new clue made me even happier than usual. In my plot points–(which I need to give myself enough material to keep a book moving–and see what happened?–I’m still worried I have enough)–I was supposed to kill off Peyton–my cute, young pizza delivery guy. (Hope you could follow that). Except, I’ve gotten really attached to him. I like him way more than I thought I would. And I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t kill him. I thought readers might hate me. I’d hate me. So, you guessed it, the new character has to die. Thankfully, we don’t really get to know her, so we aren’t too attached to her, but I needed a nice, sympathic victim. And yes, I know that if I kill someone we all care about, the murder will have more impact. But this time, I just couldn’t do it.
Anyway, I’ve added a few scenes to the last fourth of the book, and hopefully, they’ll push me over 70,000 words–the length my editor wants. If not, I’ll panic again, and I’ll have to come up with more ideas. But the thing is, this happens to me EVERY book. You’d think I’d learn, but not so much. And you know how every kid you have is different? So what works for one doesn’t work for the next? Well, so is every book. One flows, one doesn’t; one loves wordy descriptions, one begs to be tighter, punchier. Books have their own ideas of what they want. And just like raising a kid, you as the author might have certain rules, but the books do their best to bend them.
What I have learned, though, is to trust myself and the process. There’s a certain amount of faith in starting a book, a belief that when you reach a big, giant hole with only blank pages in front of you, you’ll be able to think of something to fill it. And you will. Trust yourself. So, hope you have a good week. And happy writing!