I love it when a plan comes together
I haven’t been well today, so instead of writing I have been brainstorming, which involves less shutting myself in an unappealing spare room while hammering at a keyboard, and more sitting in a sunny lounge with a cup of tea and a blank notebook.
One of the most magical things about the writing process for me often occurs when I’m working my way through the second draft. I know that there is something wrong with a plot thread. I’ve thought about it enough to have finally worked out what it is. I just don’t know what to do about it.
In Shining in the Sun it was a question of why on earth Alec would have to spend a whole week combing Cornwall for any sign of Darren, so that he could apologize for forgetting to mention he was engaged, when he had Darren’s mobile phone number all along.
In The Witch’s Boy it was the central question of how to tie the two halves of the book together. Yes, Adela knew she needed to find a witch of her own to go up against the bad guy. But how was I to get her to go straight to Sulien without it looking like a massive and unbelievable coincidence?
In Under the Hill it’s the fact that Flynn warns Chris of a threatened elvish invasion long before he can possibly have known about it. And when he does find out about it, he’s being held in stasis and couldn’t possibly tell Chris. But getting Chris out of prison later absolutely depends on Chris knowing about it at the right time.
In the case of both of my published books, I had no idea how I was going to resolve these problems. In fact, though I knew there was something wrong I hadn’t even realized what the problem really was until I was half way through the second draft, at which point it dawned on me and started to make my life a misery. “Your book is horribly flawed!” it said. “Why not give up now and start a more interesting one? The best you can hope for with this one is that nobody spots the mistake, but you’ll know it’s there. Probably everyone else will too.”
I doggedly ignored the voice and carried on revising, and then, one day, completely out of the blue, the solution came to me. I don’t get much in the way of inspiration, normally. I don’t have a constant stream of ideas, and my characters are rarely chatty, but oh boy, this sudden twist where I know what to do to solve a problem I’d been sure was insolvable – that’s the real thing.
In Shining in the Sun it turned out that Krissy had told Darren that his abusive ex was after him – so he had turned his phone off and was hiding from Max – meaning Alec couldn’t find him either.
In The Witch’s Boy it turned out that a character I had introduced very early on, on the principle of “if you don’t know what happens next, have a man with a gun enter the room,” turned out to have a family backstory that tied everything together beautifully. So beautifully it looked like I’d meant it all along.
I don’t know that my solution in Under the Hill is quite as elegant as Gunnar’s ring – I’d have to go a long way to beat that – but today I am celebrating the mystery and brilliance of inspiration. It seems to hit you from outside after your own brain is exhausted. I wasn’t at all sure it would happen this time – I never am. I feel certain there’s no guarantee that it always will. But today it did. Hurray! I think I’ve cracked it!