It occured to me, two seconds ago, that writing a novel can feel like planning a wedding.
When my husband and I planned our wedding, I was absolutely determined not to be one of those brides who gives herself three thousand choices, only to find herself overwhelmed and drained come wedding day. I headed to Barnes & Noble, purchased a tiny black Moleskin notebook — more compact than an address book, in fact — and vowed anything that won’t fit in here doesn’t need to happen.
Our engagement was one day shy of three months, and the planning went exactly as we hoped. The secret: having a fiancé who was totally helpful and awesome. The other secret: simplicity of options, which led to easier choices.
Brides so easily get stressed out when they give themselves a thousand options —
once you decide on pink (which I did not), you then have to choose between coral, rose, raspberry, fuchsia, and on and on and on. Same with flowers, dresses, music, hairstyle, makeup. We made quick decisions, rather than traipsing through the list of options spanning from earth to moon. Everything turned out perfect, and beautiful, and we were able to enjoy the day.
Novel-writing and wedding planning — where am I going with this, you ask?
Writing the second draft, for me, has been all about choices. I know what I want to happen, but there are so many options at how things happen. Right now, I’m working out the last third of the novel. There are a few pieces of information that need to be revealed before the climax, a few decisions my characters need to make, a few more conflicts that need to be had. Working out how all these things fit together is like piecing together a puzzle, and it takes a mountain of patience.
For example, there is a pivotal piece of information that’s about to get revealed. I’m toying with two major options: S tells E the truth directly, which leads to one type of resulting conflict — or — E finds out the truth from someone else, which still leads to conflict. S telling E the truth directly feels like a better pay-off of their existing tension, but E finding out from someone else fits better with the way the climax needs to play out. Trying to make the best of both worlds — direct confrontation while maintaining the buildup I have in mind — requires tweaking with the ideas in between.
Planning our wedding was much easier than writing this book.
This would have been a more simple task had I limited my options (created fewer characters and a less complex plot), but I did not. I could always go back and cut out the complexities, but I really like them and am determined to make it work. How satisfying it will feel to get the details out of the way so the story can shine! I may have to wallow in a mucky swamp of decisions for a while, but not forever. Until then, it’s one plodding step at a time, until the plotting is sorted out and my decisions fade to invisible.
When guests go to a gorgeous wedding, they don’t see the infinite pool of choices the bride waded through to come up with the finished product. No, they see the bride and groom, the love story, the marriage — a ceremony taking place in the context of polished beauty. I want my novel to be the same. No one needs to know the story could have happened any other way.