It happens all the time: I reach a point in the story where the narrative could go in more than one direction, like a writer’s version of those Gamebooks that became popular in the 1970s (never could figure out why – I remember picking one up and tiring of it very quickly). If I choose one direction, events unfold in one way, if I choose another, they unfold in another way. The story will eventually get to where I want it to go and the main events I need to flesh out to make it get there will occur no matter what, but very seldom will one choice appear to be clearly better than another right away. As a result I often find myself paralyzed until I can make up my mind, and this from someone trained from a young age to be decisive! I know I said in my previous post that my characters are often in charge, but they just want to get their jobs done and will take the quickest path to the conclusion – which doesn’t necessarily jive with what the readers may wish to experience, hence paralysis.
What I’ve decided to experiment with is defining the scenes I know have to be part of the story, not in any particular order (because that’s my decision paralysis problem), and write a few of them, dialogue and all, without directly connecting them to what I’ve already written. This is a departure from my usual practice of writing the book sequentially, chapter after chapter. No doubt stitching the scenes together will add some re-work, but it means that I’m still writing while my subconscious fights it out with my characters to decide what happens next.
Faced with a fork in the road this week, instead of following Yogi Berra’s advice to take it, I wrote one of the key scenes that I figure will happen later in Act II, a discussion between Dunmoore and the main antagonist that reveals some key information. It’s by no means the culminating face-off between them, but one of the crucial events that build the crescendo. Lo and behold, by the time I had most of the dialogue on screen, the immediate direction I needed to take became very clear. There is still considerable work to be done between where the story now sits and that particular scene, but looking to the future seems to have triggered the decision for the present while at the same time filling that paralysis period with useful progress.
Now if I could just figure out a way to put off life (chores, errands, my day job, etc) to the future and give myself more waking hours for writing, I might increase my chances of finishing the first draft by April. Between the arctic cold and long days battling mindless bureaucracy, I end up wanting to spend most of my week nights reading or watching Netflix, rather than putting in another few hours in front of the computer screen. But fear not, Book 2 is coming out this summer – it’s called using your weekends to write instead of goofing off like normal, sane folks.