When the story catches fire

Posted by Shannon Haddock on August 17, 2014 in Writing process |
English writer Neil Gaiman. Taken at the 2007 ...

English writer Neil Gaiman. Taken at the 2007 Scream Awards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Neil Gaiman‘s Journal, on October 15, 2007:

“The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising (“but of course that’s why he was doing that, and that means that…”) and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.

You don’t live there always when you write. Mostly it’s a long hard walk. Sometimes it’s a trudge through fog and you’re scared you’ve lost your way and can’t remember why you set out in the first place.

But sometimes you fly, and that pays for everything.”

Today (I count a day from waking up to going to bed, because I’m nocturnal) has been one of those days where the story caught fire.  This story had been kicking around in my head as a “What if?” that was fun to play with in a “I make up AU versions of my own stuff for amusement” sort of way.  (Yes, I’m weird, I know.  I write space opera for a living, weird is a prerequisite.  Normal people don’t have lengthy discussion about the pros and cons of various ftl methods over dinner.)  I started writing it mostly because I haven’t written in long enough that I’m starting to feel weird, partially because it wouldn’t leave me alone until I did, and next thing I knew, it was over 1000 words already.  And, what’s more, I HAD A PLOT FORMING!  As my reviewers are quite happy to point out, plot is not my strong suit.  So, I’ve finished the day with just over 3000 words and a pretty good idea what’s coming.

It’s thrilling and terrifying all at once.  Thrilling, because not that long ago 3000 words was a whole week’s hard work; terrifying because there’s always the fear that it won’t happen again, that the story will be stuck forever.

It’s no wonder writers tend to be as superstitious a bunch as gamers.  We both suspect that all kinds of weird things actually influence the magic, the random chance, everything.  There’s a part of my brain, for instance, going “Well, you’re jinxing the story now by blogging about it!”  Why?  Because the last time one was going this smoothly, I blogged about it, and, well, it’s been stuck for over a year.  The more rational side of me knows that’s not true though.  That story, really, got stuck because the two main characters got along entirely too well.  I was expecting it to be a space opera romantic comedy.  But the romantic leads just wanted to cuddle and make out instead of bickering or amusingly misunderstanding each other.  It’s always very annoying when the characters won’t do what I want.  This time though?  I stopped because I couldn’t find the right words for what happened next and because I was reaching the sort of tired where I always end up writing really maudlin stuff.  Bobby’s conflicted right now, not maudlin.  So I stopped until tomorrow.  Besides, Bobby’s the viewpoint character.  That means he’s going to talk.  When Bobby talks, trouble tends to follow, because heaven forbid he should ever think before he speaks.  So if I get stuck, all I’ve got to do is have him open his mouth.  That’s one of many reasons he’s one of my favorite characters.

Though I had been hoping to have a break from him.  I wanted to write some more about Jake, or about Renata and Quinn and their weird relationship, but those stories wouldn’t play nice, so, more Bobby it is.

I just hope this story doesn’t take as long to finish as No More Lies.


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