I’ve known right along that I didn’t really know where the novel was going. On novel-length efforts I haven’t had much success writing to an outline, so I thought I’d try just writing. (Another thing I’ve been doing differently this time is giving the chapters to Jackie as I go along, figuring that would give me a little extra push to make each one kind of exciting.)
I’ve been putting in little hints of underlying complexity, even if I wasn’t sure exactly what they mean. I figure some of them will turn into something. The others I can leave in if they work as texture or remove if they detract.
For some reason, though, the past couple of days it started bugging me that I didn’t know where I was going. I was at an inflection point in the story and I thought had an idea for what I wanted to do next, but without an idea of where I was going, it just turned into nothing. The result was two days with zero word counts.
That was bad, but today I figured out I could write another chunk. I’d made the not-unusual decision to cut the hero off from most sources of help, but I realized today that I could let him call for help without him actually getting help anytime soon. Plus, this gives me the chance to insert some exposition if necessary–the response to the call for help can fill in whatever background is needed to put his adventures in the context of the greater story. (I haven’t written it yet, but I’ll write something, and if it isn’t right I can change it later.)
So, even though I still don’t know what the greater story is, I was able to write 500 words today of calling for help.
Although it daunted me for a couple of days, I think I’m past this cycle of worrying about what the greater story is. The worst that can happen is that I never do, and I’ll have spent a couple of months writing sixty thousand words that never turns into a novel. But the couple of months would have gone by whether I’d written sixty thousand words or not.