GATHER YOUR HAY
Another Monday, and it’s still Kansas. In fact, it will be Kansas for a while. It would not be accurate to say I find it boring; I find it much slower. Adjusting my pace and my expectations is my major challenge, but that’s a reasonable facsimile for much of life, isn’t it? Even in my natural habitat events don’t happen in my time or unfold as I would wish.
Here, I am taking my cue from the ample farming fields: watching the preparations for winter, the time of storage and waiting through the long dark season. Above, a farmer’s field full of hay bales for her cattle. Some farmers, I’ve noted, store the bales neatly in rows to be allotted as needed, while others leave the bales scattered for the cattle to find. I assume the latter is working from knowledge of how and when and how much his or her cattle need to eat. Of course, this reminds me of writing (as pretty much everything does.)
Writers often tell me they’re stuck. I sympathize, for I often don’t know where a subplot or character is going. (If you don’t know your main plot or have an idea about where your central character will end up, that’s another subject entirely.) I’ve learned a few ways to cope with this uncertainty that I’d like to share with you.
1. Sometimes you can write your way out of the puzzle. Try simply writing without stopping until what’s on the page begins to make sense to you as part of your story. This often is the best way when a bunch of conventional notions or assumptions about the “logic” of behavior are getting in our way. (Humans? Logical? What is your favorite color of M&Ms? I rest my case.) We want our characters to surprise the reader–and, first, us–at least a little. Otherwise, it’s dullsville. So write yourself past your stumbling blocks and you may find a pleasant surprise.
2. If you can see your way ahead, dimly or partially, and you know the next bit after that, write what you know, store it away or simply leave it in your manuscript, surrounded by white space to remind you that you need to revisit it, and move on. As you continue to write, almost certainly the future will fill out the past, revealing fully what should have happened before.
My manuscripts often are filled with blobs of words that need detail, color, shaping to become one with the whole. Writing the bits that fill out and connect with the rest is part of the fun of revision to me; I make one delicious discovery after another as I fit those word-blobs into the mix.
So go ahead and write in fits and starts or unspool each thread till you can see its part in the overall pattern. Don’t be afraid to move forward even if you have to feel your way. Later, you can gather your good bits and make them a part of the glorious whole.
Happy writing! As always, let us know what you’re working on today in the comments, below.