Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

The Curve in the Road

Somehow, in the last two months I’ve managed to cobble together enough writing time in the early hours of the day and on weekends to put 47,197 words on 147 pieces of virtual paper. They’re not the best words, not by a long shot. They may not even be very good words, but they’re words and they are defining something that is approaching a story. I currently have three major characters, with two of them being my stars, allies who look like they’re about to be adversaries. I have motivation and actions, and at least some consequences, but I don’t really have a story, not just yet.

I’m not sure if I’m truly troubled by this yet or not. My “process,” such as it is, is to discover the story as I go along. As a general rule, I have some thing that gets me fired up—as I relayed last week, in the case of Powerless, it was that simple question that came up while driving through a hurricane to pick up my kid: “What if I couldn’t get there?” In the case of the WiP, it was the result of watching a recent episode of Last Week Tonight and thinking about the ramifications of a spate of laws being signed by some asshole governors (Oh, I’m sorry, as a soon-to-be published for the first time author, I’m probably not supposed to say anything potentially controversial like this, but at this stage, those of you who are reading this already know where I stand on a lot of things (or can figure it out) and you still come here. As for those who might come along and be offended by my politics after reading Powerless, well, maybe it will be too late to get your money back. I suppose you can always burn it.). Ahem. Regardless, in both instances I had little more than a grain of an idea when I started writing. In the case of the former I was fortunate enough to both discover and manufacture what I think is a pretty good story built around that grain. What I don’t remember is when was I able to see my ultimate destination, and to know know there was a full story with an actual beginning, middle and end to it.

The first draft of Powerless was an astonishing 368 manuscript pages, nearly 105,000 words in all. It’s not an unusual number for me, I think I’ve topped 100,000 words on the first drafts of all my manuscripts. There’s no telling how long the WiP will turn out to be, but I’m not going to lie, I’m sweating a bit right now, as I approach what should be closing in on the halfway point of the story. It feels a bit like driving along a sweeping mountain road where you can never really see around the curve—is there an exit up ahead where you can pull off and stretch your legs, get a bite to eat, fill the gas tank? Or does the road just keep curving and curving and curving endlessly?

I’m not at a religious or particularly spiritual person (oops, there I go again, but just know that I do not begrudge anyone their spiritual beliefs, unless that causes them to act like a butthead toward others), I’m not one “let go and let God”, as the expression goes. Yet this kind of writing is very much an act of faith. I’m trusting that when I crack open a new Word document and put down those first words without anything more than a sand grain of an idea, that more words will follow. Trusting that scenes will build upon one another and that at some point I’ll see the safe spot on the road ahead, a place where I’ll be able to pull over and park for a bit before starting the mad journey all over again.

One Response

  1. Listening to our instincts can be so powerful! I have no doubt you’ll get exactly where you need to be as you journey through this story!

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