Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Something From Nothing

Copyright © 2009, Steven E. Houchin

This summer, I thought I was well on my way to completing my third novel, Snowbound. I figured I ought get it done soon, seeing how it was chosen as a finalist in this year’s (2009) PNWA Literary Contest. But a funny thing happened on the way to the finish line: I didn’t have an ending, it was too short, and the middle didn’t have enough oomph (a technical term meaning giddyup). Other than that, it was a masterpiece. I desperately needed ideas to move it forward.

My critique group grumbled when I arrived each week empty handed. “Just write!” they’d say. “It all comes out crap,” I responded truthfully, having suffered brutal critiques of obviously rotten prose the last few times. I was stuck. Drastic action was necessary. So, I formulated a bold and decisive plan: do nothing. Nothing! Put the damned thing away and wait. Let the story rattle around in my head for a few weeks, or even months if necessary. So, I did.

For the next several weeks, mid-story plot scenarios played out in my mind, coming and going like bad TV sitcoms and stale leftovers. My exasperated critique group-mates threw out ideas. I felt pressure to keep writing. But it just felt ... wrong. So, the manuscript sat, forlorn and unloved - the lousy piece of #*!{%!~$">#$.

But, doing nothing begat real inspiration. After a couple of months, a new plot idea bubbled up from the muck and said, “Look at me! Ain’t I pretty?” I thought it through and said, “Why, yes you are!” Once again, my manuscript was loved and adored as I pounded out the new story line into the middle of what existed before. The chapters flowed out and the story revved up as I added new action, suspense, bumbling, and shootouts (you simply must have shootouts).

I still need an ending, but the ball is rolling again. Amazing how one can get something out of nothing.

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