I’m indecisive. I should take some time to sit and think. Make a choice and stick with it.
It feels odd for me to call anything like it is. I don’t care for labels, categories, and all that nonsense. I understand the need. I’ll go along with the marketing and self-promotion of it all, but this is the truth: I write stories about people that aren’t real, but feel real to me. This mistrust of labels is so deeply engrained in my Gen X-er’s blood, that before I was published, I would not call myself an author. I still have trouble with that title because my next novel will be self-published.
The same is true to some extent in my daily life: I don’t work outside the house so I call myself unemployed, though this is far from true. I stay at home with the kids by choice. I’m a mom to four, messy sons and reluctant lover of two dirty dogs and that is a bunch of freaking work. All the cooking (2-3 x daily), cleaning (daily), mountains of dirty dishes and laundry (never-ending!) are the daily thorns in my side, while I try to find the time to write and research plot topics so my characters don’t sound like idiots.
Side note Hats off to all you working moms out there. If I had to work outside the house, I honestly do not think I could find the time to write.
My long, drawn-out point is: I was thinking about all of this and came to the conclusion that, even though it’s a lot of work, I love that the characters I create have multifaceted lives, like real people.
On the flip-side of that: it can be tough knowing the what and where to take their stories. Choosing one, specific plot line–one of many, maybe too many–to follow.
In my first book, Between Octobers, the protagonist, Grace, is a widow and mother of two boys with a decade between their ages. She’s also a Registered Nurse, and she’s fighting undiagnosed depression. As the story moves on, she meets and falls in love with Evan. Once their lives merge, she struggles to maintain balance on the slippery slope that is blending a family and to maintain a sense of identity through the changes. Grace is also extremely shy and hopelessly naive.
Evan himself suffers the insecurities that often accompany the excessive notoriety that his career entails as well as inexperience with serious relationships.
All of those characteristics created a plethora of possibility as far as plot direction, but still none of them will give you the ending of the book. The facts I’ve given carry the story, but they are not the point of the story.
I am also a self-professed over-writer and compulsive editor. You have no idea how many ways I can write, rewrite, and breakup the same sentence. Over and over. And over. And over again.
The point of this rambling is that I am in that same space now with my current novel, September Rain. Fine tuning the story, making sure the plot opens up within the first three chapters, that the first chapter begins with an action, that the major problems are mentioned but not addressed until the half-way point, and then trying to embellish the big surprise plot-twist that seemed so major to me–but just made my CP’s scratch their heads.
I’ve let my story about Angel and how she got into prison flow and create itself. I’ve followed her through her problems, her loves and losses and ended up with WAY TOO MUCH for just one book. Which means shaving the word count, cutting plot threads and even a character or two.
Then comes the doubts of the major events: Have I taken them too far or not far enough? Are my characters suffering enough? Is the romance too much? Too little? Is my narrator obviously unreliable like she probably needs to be?
I’ve struggled with these and hundreds of other questions. Which road to take, which direction to drive my characters, how to cleanly sew the ending–it feels impossible when the possibilities seem endless.
Truth is, these are questions only readers can answer and that’s another post, entirely. One which I do not have time for, because God knows, this book will NOT finish itself.
Maybe, with my next novel, I’ll challenge myself to start with an outline (I stink at outlines) and see if that saves me any editing in the long run.