And then what happened? That’s the question I keep asking. I’m working on my third novel and this is my favorite part. I’ve spent the summer getting to know the characters and two weeks ago I finally set them in motion. Now every day I sit down at the computer and ask, “And then what happened?”
It’s not a very scholarly approach, but it’s what works for me. I’ve got nothing against a good outline. Being a listmaker, I love organization. It just doesn’t work for me in my storytelling. If I’m following a map, it’s too predictable. Too paint-by-numberish.
Some days the muse takes me down an odd path that may not actually be a part of the novel. It might only be my distracted mind thinking about the tumble I took today while running with my overly nervous foster dog. It wasn’t his fault I know, but my skinned knee and hands still sting so I still kicked him out of my writing space today anyway. I hear him in the kitchen tearing apart a stuffed animal, but I keep writing. Next thing I know my characters is dealing with a dead animal. Probably not really part of the story line.
It’s not just in my current novel that I’m asking this question. Now I’m asking the question of my writing career. My first book is out. Everyone who reads it loves it. It gets some stellar reviews. We pop the champagne....and then what happens? Could it be a movie? Will my publisher sell the foreign rights? Could it wiggle its way onto a bestseller list? Unlikely for a first-time novelist. But it happens, right? A girl has to dream.
It’s hard to be patient. I know if I am and I let the story tell itself to me, the magic will happen in its own time and not mine.
Patience is powerful. Kids and animals have a way of reminding us of this truth. Toddlers and surly teenagers move slowly when given direct orders. My horses have taught me my timeline is not necessarily theirs through one too many unplanned meetings with the dirt. And my foster dogs remind me daily that if I’m patient, they’ll reveal the good dog underneath. Writing is one more life lesson in patience. It takes hours and hours and hours to tell a good tale, to find out what happens next.
My son interrupts my writing with a story of his day. My kids are growing up so fast. One just started college, one is learning to drive, and one, the one who is keeping me from writing today, he’s still willing to share his stories with me. So instead of hurrying him along, I close the laptop, turn to him, and ask, “And then what happened?”