Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

By R.J. Harlick

Did you know how your book would end when you started it?

I find the writing of a book is like following the yellow brick road. I have a rough idea that there will be an Oz at the end, but I have no idea what Meg will find when she reaches it nor do I know how she will get there other than by following the yellow brick road. But like Dorothy, I know Meg will have plenty of adventure along the way.

I have tried outlining and failed. By the third chapter I would be way off story. So I don’t bother anymore.

At the outset, I will at least know the setting, the underlying theme, the main characters and some of the secondary ones. I usually have a rough idea on where the story is headed, but that’s it. I have absolutely no idea how it will end or how I will get there.  Flying by the seat of my pants. That’s what they call it, whoever 'they' is. Though it yields many a hair-pulling moment, it also gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction when I finally reach the end and realize it made perfect sense that this was the ending. I should’ve known it all along.

I start off with an opening scene and go from there, writing a scene at a time, a chapter at a time, each leading to the next. I rarely know what will happen beyond the next couple of chapters. It can get a little unsettling, even frustrating, especially when I am in the middle of the book, as I am now, and still don’t have a clue where the story is going.

As I march along, I toss balls into the air without the slightest idea whether or where they will land. But after seven books, there is one thing I do know, I will reach the end and all the balls I have thrown will find a place in the story. I tell you I breath a great sigh of relief once the ending is in sight, for only then do I know all my hard work has not been for naught. There really is an ending to the story.

As for knowing whodunit, you guessed it, I never know until I am almost at the end. Often I find myself madly writing the last chapters so I can find out who committed the dastardly deed.


Susan C Shea said...

You really are flying without a net, Robin! I'm curious how long it takes you from first sentence to final sentence of the first draft? I start with a who did what to whom but have found I can spin my wheels and get awfully dug in to the mud, so for the newest manuscript (with a major publisher waiting) I intend to do some mapping. I notice in my first pass I'm still stuck in the middle!

RJ Harlick said...

It takes me a long time Susan with many breaks. That's why I don't publish a book every year. More like every 18 months. I do some mapping as I go along, i.e. identifying goals, motives, etc. for key characters and their role in the story.

Susan C Shea said...

SILVER TOTEM OF SHAME is sitting here on the TBR stack I brought back from LCC - can't wait to read it!