You need to know your novel’s ending before beginning. Strange advice at first perusal, I thought. Years earlier when I sat down to write my first full length novel I had no idea where it was going. I just knew I passionately wanted to write a book. A book I had promised myself all my life. Other than teaching high school English from time to time, I had no formal training in the art of the novel. Of course, since then I have read a slew of books on how to improve my craft. It’s a good thing you don’t realize how much you need to know before you begin a new career or you might be so overwhelmed you never start!
But I digress, what I have discovered is this: When you write a book without any plotting at all other rather than diving right in there is something that can happen to stop the process (other commitments to family and other novels that need editing) that can take you right out of the process. And after I had written five, I found I wasn’t finishing some of them when these commitments invariably raised their necessary heads. A writer’s nightmare. Unfinished books that started out as passionately as my first ones, but faltered when I had to leave them to starve for attention by the wayside while I attended to other things. I knew it wasn’t the fault of the story. With my first few novels I had the luxury of time to work all the wrinkles out along the way. But at some point that luxury melted away and I could not count on having the time to work it all out.
So on my very next novel, I decided to take some advice from a good book on writing and actually see the story from beginning to end. I made a timeline, made lots of notes, did my research, and for the first time spent two weeks getting prepared. And this is what happened: It worked! I am just now finishing that very novel though I have been called away from it numerous times. It worked because I always knew where I was when I picked it up again. I had my notes and a plan. Not a perfect plan. I found characters will always call the shots and add things you didn’t see coming as well they should. But enough of a plan to allow me to keep at it when I had the time to work on it. I know from now on this is what I’m going to do. My life does not look to ever unfold in that perfect cocoon that the first few novels allowed, so I will be prepared.
I’m wondering fellow writers, has this ever happened to you? Have you found that the process of writing a novel can unfold this differently? I would love to hear from you.
Hugs, January Bain