The ongoing problem with my novel has been that I knew where the story was going to end but not how it would get there or why or how long it would take.
Just a couple of weeks ago I was visiting a friend and she asked how the writing was going. I thought I had made some really great headway, and started babbling about the plot. On and on. Finally she just nodded and said brightly, "Well, I think it's great you don't know what's going to happen!"
Hmm. It didn't sound so great to me. I had just come so far in the last few days! I had fleshed out so much! Had she been listening to all the complex ways in which I was trying to work everything out? Or about all of my half-baked ideas?? Apparently not. If she had, surely she would have been more impressed.
It worried me. I'd been rewriting this novel since last January. I should have known by now how it ends. But I didn't. Like I said, I knew where it ended. I knew the major players. And my brain kept tossing in random suggestions like, "You should bring back someone from earlier in the novel!" And I'd say, "Why?" And my brain would just shrug and make a snide comment about how I wasn't doing my share of the work.
Weeks and weeks ago, my beta had kindly and accurately accused me of stalling. She pointed out that I was slowing down because I was afraid of the ending. She was right.
Just yesterday I announced to Curt that I was going to set a deadline and then I was going to chart out word goals and corresponding rewards because I had lost that sense of urgency, that feeling that there was anyone, anywhere, who cared at all about this story being told.
I was beginning to wonder if I still cared.
And then, last night while I was lying in bed and unable to sleep, I had an idea.
It began with a somewhat inconvenient obstacle for Maggie & Co. but it was snappy and it made me smile in the dark. I wrote some perfect (they are always perfect in the dark with no paper proof) sentences in my head and when I finally acknowledged that I wasn't going to remember all of this in the morning, I got up and wrote it down. I had a couple more ideas. Great!
I came back to bed with the notebook—just in case.
The ideas kept coming. I didn't want to turn on the light or get up again, so I wrote in the dark, just a few words per page in the hopes that I'd be able to read it all in the morning.
But it all just kept unspooling, like a shining gold ribbon revealing itself to me, at last. I have read interviews wherein writers talk about The Unspooling, a moment when everything comes together and it all makes sense and you feel a sense of calm and rightness.
Of course, that sort of writing magic never happened to me. So I had filed it under Possible Evidence to Prove I am Not Meant to Be a Writer and forgot about it.
Last night, The Unspooling finally happened to me.
I feel really good. So good that I almost don't want to open my notebook and realize that the sparkling brilliance I wrote last night is in fact a handful of rough ideas that are going to require months of work to polish into something that shines.
Even so, it really did feel like magic.
For once in the last several months, I stopped beating myself up for being slow, or lazy, or easily distracted.
Illustration by Edward Gorey
Just this once, in the middle of a snowstorm last night, beneath a pink sky in a creaking old house, I thought to myself, "Maybe I was just spinning straw all this time and finally—FINALLY—I've figured out how to make gold."