I was never one to look ahead too much, if at all, when it came to writing stories. I believed in letting things unfold moment to moment, and that planning beyond that would somehow stifle the writing with expectations or burden it with constraints, that it would evolve into my story instead of the characters’ story, which would be no story at all, or a bad one.
This second novel I am working on is happening differently than the first, moving a little more steadily as I allow myself to look ahead, sometimes a little and sometimes more than a little. In looking ahead, there have been times I have had some incredibly moving and important revelations, sometimes about a character’s past that affects the future, but even more so about what is coming next. These insights give me not only a better understanding about why a character says those particular words in that particular way, or why a character has such a strong attitude about certain things, but they help me move the story along as authentically as I can towards a complete story.
Sometimes a conversation or image or event that does not belong in the chapter I am working on at the moment comes seemingly out of nowhere. These are some of the most joyful moments of writing for me. I get it down as best as I can, these notes and words from the characters, things they can’t wait to say or do. When scenes are that clear, I can be cautiously optimistic they are true and belong in the story (or at least it is important that I know them). At this point in the writing process, heading towards a complete first draft, most everything is included.
I have always been a planner, except when it came to my fiction writing. As a teacher, I loved planning lessons and writing assignments for my students. I have always loved planning road trips and I love planning parties and dinners. Now my writing process has evolved, allowing me to look ahead into the lives of my characters and plan, at least a little, when it comes to writing their story.
It is difficult for many of us to look ahead and plan too far or too much in life right now, at least with any certainty. I am hopeful we will return to our lives and loved ones soon. In the meantime, I am grateful every day for my many, many blessings.