The story reveals itself

I’m taking a break from furious keyboard wrangling to update with progress about LAIR OF DREAMS.

My first thought is, can I still call it progress? Doesn’t feel like progress. Feels like I am eating an enormous word salad. And sometimes I say, “Yep, that avocado is good in here,” and “In retrospect, baked salmon and Reese’s peanut-butter cups have no place together in this salad. Also, I might need to vomit now.”  

As you may know from previous blogs, this book has been a bitch-and-a-half to write. I have never struggled so much or despaired so greatly. This is how it is sometimes. Typical conversations with writer friends tend to go like this:

Friend: So that tunnel thing sounds really scary.

Me: Yeah? Thanks!

Friend: So, I have to know: What’s in the tunnel?

Me: No idea.

Friend: …er, but it’s a central part of your plot.

Me: *smiling unsteadily * Uh-huh. I know.

Friend: But you don’t know what it is?

Me: Nope. Not yet. *guzzles Maalox straight from the bottle *

And so on. 

A friend of mine, a singer, always says that the voice “reveals itself.” And that is how I feel about writing novels: The story reveals itself over time. Now, it doesn’t do this magically. It does so in fits and starts, in frustratingly small increments and, occasionally, in “A-ha!” thunderclap moments. And it only does this after you’ve put in the exhausting labor, after days upon days spent sitting at your laptop or notebook, moving one sentence from page 12 to page 14 and back again, deleting whole scenes and writing new segments that finally seem to bridge the disparate ideas zipping around in your head like futuristic cars. (BTW, where are those cars we were promised? Could somebody get on that? Thanks.)

And as you write, these are always the questions: How can I make this better? How can I sew that seam tighter? How can I connect this part to that part more cohesively? How can I take this seemingly small scene between two characters and sink it more deeply into the larger thematic fabric of the novel? Am I really getting down to the grit and humanity of these characters?  Am I questioning enough, or am I still skating across the surface? How do I deal with this novel’s particular “Big Bad” storyline while also building in the architecture for various character threads and the overall story arc?

And: Am I having fun? (Honestly, that’s super important.)  

So, as I struggle to answer all of those questions, to build the architecture for books #3 and #4 while trying to maintain the integrity of book #2, I’m trying to find the patience to let the story reveal itself. And to hope that I am paying attention when it does.  

 

7 thoughts on “The story reveals itself

  1. I always felt like I had to nitpick the entire plot before I could sit down and write. This makes me realize that’s probably the reason I have such a hard time finishing stories. I’m gonna try just writing what I want and not worrying about whether or not the plot makes sense right then. You are fantastic, Libba. I know everything will come together with Evie’s story because you are a great writer and you let the story and characters find their own life. Thank you for being alive.

    Love Utah Twitter Brownie Girl of 2012
    (who only got a twitter specifically for the purpose of asking you a question and then became addicted to Twitter itself)

  2. And by my sign off I hope you realize I mean I’m the girl who brought you brownies at that book signing with Shannon Hale in Utah way back. Just to clarify. In case I come off extra weird when doesn’t possibly filter through your collective memory of meeting fans

  3. Thank you for having those thunderclap moments (and bad salad) and writing “Lair of Dreams”. Your books are some of the best books I have ever read, and you always manage to make me feel uncomfortably… emotional, while still having a theme of humor and great _story_ to them.

  4. Love what you write, waiting for someone to make a movie out of a great and terrible beauty and the other two books. Lol and like Jenny put, thanks for being alive.

  5. I think your a fantastic writer, and I know that this book will be nothing short of perfection when you’re finished because you write excellently(: I can’t wait to read it! Love you *sends kisses and hugs of encouragement*

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