Writing is about focus and balance and obeying our muse
For the first time (that I recall) I don’t want to write a post for this blog today. It’s not that I don’t want to write at all; it’s that I yearn to work on something else.
This something else is a short story that has turned into a novella (a short novel). It is a YA romance, of all things. Yes, this nonfiction writer is fixated on writing a novella. I’m so into it that I’d rather work on it than do anything else. And since I have many other things that demand my attention today, this is a bit of a problem.
After I focus on this day’s critical tasks, I plan to reward myself with time to write another section. Yet I know one hour of writing will turn into more, one chapter will slide into the next, and each time I promise to write “just one more paragraph” another one will follow. This is the writer’s equivalent to reading a can’t-put-it-down, page-turner.
I call this writerphoria.
As a committed planner who outlines every long work before I type the first word, I’m mostly discovering this story as I write. Yes, I know the final scene (at least I think I do), and I am writing toward it. I also listed story beats that I click through in connect-the-dots fashion to move me closer to the finish line, but as I do my muse keeps giving me more great ideas to insert into the journey.
It’s a heady experience—and also frustrating.
My angst occurs because I’m largely winging this affair. Since I didn’t plan on this being a novella, I didn’t plan the details. I never bothered to explore my characters, to map their motivations, or even determine their last names. I just make it up as I go – and hope it doesn’t contradict something I wrote earlier. And too often it does. I worry that I’m not fixing all the prior scenes to align with the new ones I’m adding. Plus, I must get back to my story before some essential spark slips from memory and disappears forever.
This all began with a simple short story, flash fiction (under one thousand words).
I started writing short stories in earnest about two years ago. This was strategic in preparation to write a novel, which I plan to start this November as part of NaNoWriMo. Though the NaNoWriMo rules tell me I can’t start the actual writing until November 1, I can prepare and plan. I know my story arc, I’ve outlined the plot, and I’ve detailed my characters and identified their motivation. I listed my beats and know the theme. I have the title. The opening and ending scenes bounce around in my head.
Though I can’t wait to start my novel in November, I have a novella to finish first—along with living the other parts of life.
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Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.