Tuesday, March 11, 2014
A novel ending
As I mentioned last week, I submitted a revised draft of my novel to a publisher last week. If I'm going to be honest, I had not looked at it since finishing the first draft in last May (before we left for the US), despite receiving some really positive and useful feedback on it.
When I saw that there was an opportunity to submit it as part of a call for unsolicited manuscripts in exactly the genre I've been writing -- and that I met all the other criteria -- I knew I couldn't let the opportunity pass. Then there was also the home truth that the deadline fell exactly ten days before my baby's due date... after which time, it was very unlikely I'd look at it again for a long time.
So, after ticking off practically everything else on my To Do list (e.g. prepare nursery, organise little un's birthday parties/presents, pack suitcase for hospital), I set aside a week to polish my manuscript.
I don't really know what I was expecting but, in the final analysis, there wasn't an extreme amount of work involved. I added a whole new chapter to the beginning and tweaked some of the details for consistency and wrote a synopsis as required. The latter was probably the bit that hurt the most.
I did find myself stumped, however, on how to liven up the middle of the story. It felt like it "slumped" a little -- a concern echoed by both of my expert readers -- and the protagonist (not unlike me) was floundering in absence of more concrete clues as to what he was supposed to be doing.
I sat at my computer but nothing came to me. The clock was ticking. I really did want to submit the best manuscript possible. Dammit, what was I supposed to do?
[Insert all sorts of unhelpful comments from my inner critic here.]
Then it occurred to me. What if I intuitively knew the answer to my conundrum but by trying to force it was just getting in my own way?
What if I could just sink into the question and see what answer arose? For example, what if I asked myself what the story needed just before I went to bed that night and see what my dreams yielded?
In the end, I decided to try something a little radical (and more than a little "woo woo"). I had recently purchased a new tarot deck, inspired by some lovely readings shared by my friend Cathy. What if I consulted the tarot? After all, the Motherpeace deck is based on ancient motifs from traditional tales, not unlike some of the themes in my novel.
I took some deep breaths, focused and asked -- lovingly, respectfully -- what the story needed.
At first, it seemed to be that the cards wanted to tell me some stuff about what I needed in my life, beyond my writing conundrum. For a deck known for its gentle message, these messages were something of a kick in the pants, it's fair to say.
But they also told a story that totally fit with the scene I wanted to rewrite. They showed me a way of imparting some new information to my protagonist in a way that was exciting, original and more than a little bit frightening.
I went with it. And it worked.
I think I may be using this method for some time to come! And I reckon I'd recommend it for anyone who is stuck in the midst of a creative conundrum.
In fact, I'd even go as far as to say, if you ever find yourself in this sort of situation email me (my email address can be found in the "contact me" tab). I'd be happy to draw some cards for you.
You just never know: you may find the novel ending you've been waiting for!