Sunday, September 25, 2011

Writing Ennui

When I wrote my first novel, the book took many twists and turns I had not anticipated. Once I got to know my characters and they began to trust me to tell their stories, I let them lead me. And, though my outline kept me (and them) on track, it was never etched in stone. It constantly evolved with the telling of the story.

But, my second novel did not go as smoothly. I made many changes to the outline along the way and many of the scenes were not planned the way they eventually played out. I began to realise, about half way through, that I didn't know if I wanted the story to end. Many nights I avoided my computer, all the while my characters were anxious for me to get back, to finish their stories.

Now, I am two-thirds done with my third novel, and I have reached that point again. I know how the story will end (according to my outline), but I don't know how my characters and I shall get there. And, I am loath to sit at my computer and write. For writing the end means the end of this journey with my characters.

When I outline a novel, it is with great anticipation: of the story, the characters, the direction, and the ultimate outcome. Once enmeshed, I want to know how the story will end, but it is also with a great deal of anxiety. For when it does end, I am left empty, sad, and lonely. My characters are alive to me - they populate my waking and sleeping mind, nagging me about a plot point they don't like, or urging me on when the action is fierce.

So why the avoidance? I don't believe in writer's block, but I have writer's ennui. I get to a certain part in my novel and I don't lose interest, I just don't want it to end. I try to hold off, as long as I can, to write the last few chapters. Because I know, it is emotionally draining, fraught with high tension, plot resolutions, and ultimately the end of the novel. And, then, I am left to start anew, but with a sense of loss. One story behind me and another ahead, some characters still sharing the journey with me, others left behind for now, or worse.

So, when writing a novel, or in my case a novel series, keep in mind that although there is a beginning, middle, and end to every novel, it isn't always that clearly defined, or easy to write. We become our characters and we need them as much as they need us.

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