When You Majorly Alter Your Work in Progress After Writing 50,000 Words: The Hard Truth About Writing A Novel
Today, my dear readers, I am going to give it to you straight.
Straight up, as Paula Abdul once sang.
And believe me, what I’m about to share with you is going to cause me to do quite a bit of work. Lots and lots of work. But in the end, I am hoping it will all be worth it.
And also, you must know this about me: if I didn’t love crafting stories and the agony that goes along with that job, I wouldn’t do it.
If you’ve been with me for a while, you know that I am a professor, writer, author, and as you see me here, a blogger. I’ve written four fiction books to date, and one textbook about Event Planning with my colleagues, Chip and Leeanne. I write a lot. And since 2009, I’ve been writing nonstop.
Participating in National Novel Writing Month in November, I was able to capture nearly 50,000 words of a new novel I had in my head that began as a short story. That short story, entitled Life with Nan, was published in my most recent work of fiction The Postcard and Other Short Stories & Poetry, which debuted in July this past summer. I had this story in my head, and as many other writers might tell you, the pesky characters wouldn’t leave me alone. I kept thinking about them, their backstory, and loving the relationships between the granddaughter and grandmother. I decided to pursue writing this story, which was originally set in the Cotswolds in the UK.
After taking a break from it for a bit during the final weeks of the semester, something just felt off with the plot and the setting. I was struggling to find the much needed hook I was looking for, in much the same way that Inn Significant sat for nearly five years until I found the plot line of the grandmother’s journal that tied the whole story together. (As you can see, I love writing about daughters, mothers, and grandmothers, in addition to folding in a love story). Nevertheless, something was missing in my work in progress.
When that happens, you stall.
You reflect on what exactly the hell it is you’re writing.
When I least expected it, yesterday morning as I was reviewing the manuscript and seeing where the holes were, a big, beautiful lightbulb went off in my head.
That lightbulb led me to the hook. The thing that will tie everything together.
And, if I might say so, I think this hook will make the readers of Inn Significant who are wanting a sequel very, very happy.
If you’ve ever watched that TED TALK by Elizabeth Gilbert where she talks about where creativity comes from (it’s brilliant, by the way—a must watch for all creatives), that “thing,” that Dobby the House Elf-in-the-corner-of-the-room-mystical-thing, happened to me yesterday.
Out of nowhere, the idea for the book has evolved into something that I think will be pleasing to both me, as the crafter of the story, and to you, my dear, sweet readers who support me and my writing.
I promise to try my hardest not to let you down.
So the lesson today is this: if you’re not satisfied with the direction, plot, characters, setting, or momentum of the story—even if you’ve written 50,000 words of your story—it’s okay.
Those words were not wasted.
Storytelling takes time, and the best stories are given the room to breathe and grow and morph into something wonderful.