How writing a novel is like being that one (semi-useless) superhero who can see the future

Novel-writing continues apace. It’s pretty much all I can think about, so I am going to blog about it as well. This is definitely one of the knottiest ones I’ve ever wrestled with. I got to exactly the same place (30,000 words in) where the novel failed last time. And I was about to write exactly the same chapter (like, same general place, conflict, etc) where it failed last time. And I started writing. And I was writing and writing. And I had it all plotted out in my head. And…it wasn’t working.

Man, remember how bad this show was?

So I went down to the kitchen and ate some Wheat Thins and tried to figure out what was missing. And I realized, “Aha, I need to raise the stakes! Shit hasn’t gotten more real in a long time!”

So I went back and made the character start running out of money.

And then I wrote a few thousand more words. Nope. Still having that reluctance. Still having that weird unevenness in the writing and that overreliance on dialogue. This was a bit shocking, considering I’d been swimming along pretty good and had just written one of the best scenes I’ve ever written in my life.

So I lay on my bed and was all like, “Well…dammit. What do I do now?”

And then I realized that everything I’d just written (that first thirty thousand words) could be part one! And then I could just skip ahead three months (over all the boring low-stakes stuff I’d been fiddling around with) and then skip right to to the place where the stakes get higher! It’s pretty amazing. The girl gets into school in one chapter, and then in the very next chapter she gets to be on the verge of failing out. Very exciting moment! I had to spend fifteen minutes figuring out how to reconfigure my Scrivener document as what it calls a A Novel (With Parts).

And during that fifteen minutes, I had another brainstorm. Now that I’d time-skipped once, I could do it again! So I went into my outline and added a Part Three, where I get to skip ahead three whole years! And just for fun, I’m also gonna put in a fourth time-skip (right before the Denouemont).

Oh, now I remember the main point of this blog post. You know how whenever there’s a guy in a movie or TV show who can see the future, there’ll always be one point in time that’s fuzzy–beyond it he can see nothing clearly? And that’s the part where the big climactic event happens, the point where the world could either be saved or lost?

Well, writing a novel is exactly like that (for me). Generally, I can see ahead pretty flawlessly. Like, not just on a chapter-by-chapter or scene-by-scene basis…I can usually even see what the individual beats are going to be in a scene. I mean, they’ll change (sometimes drastically) as I write towards them, but they’re usually there.

And then sometimes I can’t. And it’s not like the power fades away and gradually becomes fuzzier. It’s like, beyond a certain point, everything is vague. Forget about beats, I can no longer even see scenes. And I’ve noticed that this always happens right after a point where there’s a decision that I haven’t yet made. Oftentimes, it’s a decision that I never knew I needed to make, until I’m suddenly confronted by it

But once I make that decision, suddenly entire chapters fall into place in this cascade of images. It’s pretty cool. I mean, it’s also possible that it’s pretty amateurish and that I should be thinking way harder about what to write (just covering my ass in case I later turn my back on this post), but at the very least it’s a pretty exciting thing to have happen.

Nowadays, I’ve gotten much better at seeing the points of vagueness and preemptively answering unanswered questions (I don’t mean questions that aren’t answered for the reader. Any good novel contains many such ambiguities. I mean questions that I, the author, don’t know the answer to, even though I should). But sometimes they sneak up on you. And sometimes you see them up ahead and you can’t think of anything, so you just write towards them and hope that the solution will make itself clear.

Just remember, sometimes the solution is to write a novel in parts.

Incidentally, today I wrote for 641 minutes (10.7 hours). This is my longest writing day (by almost an hour) in the 650 days that I’ve been recording daily writing time. I also wrote 10,250 words, which is my fourth-highest-ever wordcount. The only two days that were higher were the 10 hour frenzy in which I wrote the last 14,000 words of Enter Title Here and two of the final days when I was writing This Beautiful Fever. Since I am nowhere near the ending of this one, I certainly consider this to be a pretty major accomplishment. Although, I guess I did have to cut a substantial fraction of the words that I wrote today…


In this case,

One thought on “How writing a novel is like being that one (semi-useless) superhero who can see the future

Comments are closed