I started writing novels before I was in high school. The problem with that sentence is, I started, but never finished them. Until now. In April of 2008 I finally finished writing a novel. Now that I’m counting the years, I realize that I spent over half my life, nearly two-thirds, failing to complete novel projects. I spent plenty of time writing. I would reread and rewrite those first few chapters countless times, and then do the same with the next idea that came to mind. They may have gotten better, but they never got finished. What changed is that I realized a couple of things about myself and then acquired a couple of tools to apply to my work. And now I would like to share them with those who might benefit from it.
I recognized that I am an explorer. I want to go see the sights never before seen and discover what lies over that next hill. This is great for keeping an open mind, which I value. However, whatever lies beyond that next hill… hasn’t been written yet. That’s my job. I can’t discover what’s out there, I have to decide what’s out there. When I eagerly wait to see what the character is going to do in the next scene, the story stalls and he never makes it there. If I can’t wait to find out “whodunnit,” then no one did.
In effect, I have realized that in order to succeed, Writers Must Be Gods. We have created a world. We have populated it with animals (or machines). And we have formed people, characters, from the dust of our minds. And if you’re doing NaNoWriMo, you’d better do it in less than 7 days! This sequence of events sound familiar to anyone? We are the one and only god of our creation and it is up to us to write the future. We must decide the End days, and what the signs are that lead up to it.
Every one of my characters gets to the end of the scene, turns around and says “Hey, big guy, what now?” It’s my job to decide on a course of action and give him an answer. I’m not saying I have to have every detail ironed out in advance. (Even if I did, it would probably change along the way.) I am saying that if you don’t know where your story is going, it’ll never get there. It might be a mystery to you at first how Elena, the beautiful seamstress, ends up in love with Timmy the Robot, but you know they’re fated to be together. You may not know how you’re going to kill Jefferson MacGregor, but you know he’s gotta die.
So, realize this. Recognize and revel in the inherent power of being a god. Characters are born, live, die, cry, and celebrate at your whim. The entire world is your playground, and you can do anything you want within it. When you are writing, you have to be a Creator first, and then you can discover the details.