I’ve hit that point in writing my next novel where I know–or at least think I know–all the major beats left to come. I can see these moments flashing through my head, turning on loop, and I get the feeling that all I have to do is keep showing up day after day at my writing desk, put down what I see, and pretty soon I’ll have it all done.
In one sense, that’s true: I have to keep showing up. But what I forget in this rush of joy–when I can see how the rest of the story arcs to the end–is that I have to write all the connective tissue that joins those moments flashing in my head. My goal, after all, is to create a complete, breathing, organically united world, not a slide show.
What I envision, for instance (always convinced I’m being generous in my estimates) is that a particular chapter focused on one or two of these major beats will take me four solid writing days to get down. To get down in rough form, I’ll tell myself, but certainly to get down. My present reality is that I’m ending what I think (I’ve lost count) is the ninth day on a chapter I thought I could draft in four, tops. The end (for the chapter) is in sight but not yet in reach–and I don’t dare guess how many more labyrinth turns remain before I find my true way.
The trouble at this stage is always the same. You can have a clear view from the mountaintop without having the least notion of how you’ll find your way through the forest.
For this chapter alone, I have two thick stacks of printed pages, marked up so heavily with notes I can barely make sense of them, and, in an effort not to confuse the paper piles still more, I have six MS Word Documents open on my computer at this moment, half of them with partial (but failed) drafts of the chapter (approached from completely different angles), and half mish-mashes of passages and scenes I’ve cut from other failed drafts along the way and pasted onto new pages in case I find I have need of them when the right path through the chapter at last begins to open up.
All this is happening even as I remind myself that there’s every possibility that I’m twisting round and round in this chapter because it’s wrong in every possible way–a mirage–and doesn’t belong in the book at all.
But still I turn up at my desk. I can’t do otherwise. I’ve come too far. No matter how much fog rolls in day by day, I can still see clearly the story spooling out n the distance–and that makes me happy. A peculiar madness indeed.