I’ve had a revelation, and it’s going to resonate with mothers who remember that totally confusing moment during delivery called transition. It comes before you’re ready to push, and it feels like your brain just isn’t connecting with your body properly. You’re uncomfortable and confused and restless, but aren’t sure how or where to move. At this point, even the most circumspect woman can swear or grunt or do things that don’t seem to be under her control.
Believe it or not, for some writers there is a moment in drafting the story that feels like transition. I had one today. Instead of sitting quietly and writing, racking up word count, I kept getting up and going into the kitchen, not knowing why, making coffee I didn’t want, going out and checking if the washing was dry. I even found myself in the front garden with scissors, apparently getting flowers for the house. I have no idea why.
I am now in the study with the door shut (to keep myself in) and instead of writing draft I’m writing to you. But I didn’t want to lose the epiphany.
I’ve suddenly realized that this moment in the story that I’m about to ‘birth’ is what hangs everything together, and I’m just about to get it. If it was a conversation, I’d say, It’s on the tip of my tongue. I can’t see the words yet, or the actions my character is about to take, but they’re momentous. I’ve suddenly realized the whole book turns on this scene, and I had no idea until I got into it. Intellectually, nothing has changed. The hero still knows he’s going to have to kill the heroine to save his world, and he’s determined not to fall in love with her. They’re about to have sex for the first time and he wants it to be bad for her so she won’t like him, so there’s no chance she’ll get affectionate, because that’s his best chance for keeping her at arms’ length emotionally.
As the author, I knew all that and so did my hero. What I didn’t know, what’s clear to me now, is that the way he treats her when they make love will change everything between them. Not the plot. That will play out as relentlessly as duty commands for them both. Not even the romance which is also destined to follow a certain course because of their attraction and respect for each other. What will change is the dynamic between them, the nuanced and very human relationship that two people form when their lives are dependent on each other and things are complicated!
As the author, I’ve waited for this moment and dreaded it from page one. The characters in this novel are more ‘alive’ than any I’ve written in the past, and while part of me is elated to be pushing them into dangerous territory, another part of me dreads that I won’t be able to keep them who they are meant to be, who they were ‘born’ in my mind to be.
My revelation was realizing this was exactly the same way I felt before each of my children were born – dread and unutterable thrill warring inside me, pulling my mind one way and my body another.
I know I have said “Sit and stay!” in the past, encouraging writers to develop a consistent writing routine by showing up and being ready for the story to download through their fingers. But there are also times when you simply can’t stay, when the turbulence shows you that a story’s pivotal moment is about to be born.
Respect that. Give it the space it needs. Grunt if you need to. Swear. Cut flowers. Put the kettle on three times and forget to get out the coffee cup. At some point that ‘uncomfortable in my body’ sensation it will funnel into an imperative. The need to push.
The need to write.
Mine’s here now. I’m off! Wish me luck…