In honor of Star Wars Release Weekend, I will not take any shots at Wymore. So today I'm going to talk about ah-ha moments. That moment where everything clicks and you suddenly understand the solution to a problem. In writing, this is almost always a plot specific point. It might be realizing that a flaw of your main character fits perfectly into the environment of the ending. It might be the moment where you realize the contagonist of your three movie trilogy is actually the father of your protagonist. It might be that moment where you realize that you've misjudged your taxes and your going to have a lot more money to spend next year. (That's plot related, right?)
Ah-ha moments seem like they are out of our control. They are not. An ah-ha moment is like meeting the person of your dreams: there's luck involved, but luck is largely what we make of it.
Ah-ha moments do not come from the ether and only barely come from native intelligence. Ah-ha moments come from opportunity. They come from giving your mind time to grind on a problem, and then taking time to actually think about it. Do you think about your projects all the time? Do you start thinking about them weeks, if not months in advance? You should.
I was thinking about the third Death by Cliché book while I was plotting the second. The fourth and the fifth are in there as well, vaguely formed ideas about where I'm building, what I want to accomplish, and what I want these books to mean to the reader.
I've known the last line of the third book since I decided whether or not to put a certain subplot into the second (I decided not to, and so the second book partially became about laying the seeds of the subplot in the third.) I've been grinding on that third book ever since. I've had time. Every moment I'm in the car. Every moment I'm in the shower. Almost every moment my mind is wandering, some part of it is trying to figure out what the hell I'm doing with that book.
You see, the second book came at me as sort of a surprise, in that I was too stupid to be thinking about it when I should have. I knew for quite some time that the second book would need to be written (that's not the same thing as knowing it would be published). It was somewhere around the time when I got my release date that I looked at the calendar and realized I should have started book 2, mentally, about three months before.
I was halfway through a project with my writers' group and I asked them if they would mind if I put that project on hold. It would take at least six months more at our current critique rate, and I just didn't have time. I wanted to turn in the second DbC book in May of next year, and if I'm to get that into anything like fighting shape, I need to be finishing it in the next month or so.
My plan was to go back into that original project then, but I saw that trap in time. Another six months and I'd be back in the same situation. So my writing group is getting two DbC books in a row, right in the middle of that other book. That will give me a little breathing room before I need to start the fourth.
But the third one is going better. Because of these time constraints, every aspect of the second book, from a plotting standpoint, has been an uphill battle. I'm having to drive the through the mental cycles by brute force. They are coming, and Howard Tayler told me two weeks ago that it's a better book than the first, but it's been painful.
The third, on the other hand, suddenly clicked together this week. The point is that after four or more months of chewing and thinking and grinding on this book in the back of my head, of thinking about it in all the quiet times, at examining it from multiple angles, I finally hit on the two ideas that clicked together and formed the central plot. (That subplot I mentioned before would only get me so far).
Each DbC book has a purpose. I have something I want to say. The first was about the power of the creative impulse. The second takes that to its natural conclusion and explores the more implications. The third is about the political power of a people to decide their own fate. I hit upon it by combining a scene from Henry V with the plot of Les Mis.
Once those pieces click together, you have your skeleton. When you have your skeleton, you have your book. You just don't know it yet.
But this doesn't happen magically. It just seems like that. It happens when you give yourself the time and the opportunity for it to happen. For me its about four to six months. For you it might be one month or one year. I want to say don't force it, but sometimes you have to force it, especially when deadlines become a thing. Instead I'll say to try to think ahead, so you don't have to force it. You'll sleep better. You book might be better because of it, and your family and friends will find you more pleasant to be around.
Unlike Wymore. (Dammit! Almost made it).