It happened again last night, the dreaded question. What is your novel about? Every writer knows the sudden panic that courses through the veins when someone asks what her current Work-In-Progress is about.
It isn’t that we don’t know what our writing is about, and it isn’t that we don’t want to divulge. Believe me; most writers are both willing and desirous to speak of their work! It’s more the sense that one minute we may be speaking of our weekend plans, and the next – as quick as an Upper Michigan summer – we have this great opportunity, this great responsibility to represent a story, a series, a skill, ourselves. We have fifteen seconds in which to convince you – before the leaves begin to turn – that our writing is worth your time. The words we speak in that instant are every bit as important as page one of our manuscripts. If I succeed, you may leave with enough curiosity to check out my blog or pre-order a copy of the novel just to find out if it’s any good. If I flounder, you may walk away rolling your eyes and think, if Sarah is this inarticulate face-to-face, think how awful her novel must be! (Which may be true, but I’d sure rather you judge my novel by my novel and not by my social ineptitude.)
It seems like it shouldn’t be so difficult, but I confess – it’s difficult for me. Usually, my words stumble out something like, “It’s a story about two sisters in competition for the rule of their nation.” Grossly inadequate.
Part of the struggle – at least for me – is that I don’t exactly know where the story is headed. This may be one area where the plotter is at an advantage over the pantser. A plotter typically knows how the tale ends. I imagine this is helpful when trying to come up with a fifteen-second hook that will entice a reader.
I honestly don’t know how my novel will end.
Oh, I have ideas. I know the general direction we are headed. But let’s be honest a moment – if you read my last blog entry about character development then you know that I cannot possibly know for certain how Wicket Lake ends. Every chapter, it seems, I write a character into a situation in which she firmly stops me and says, “Uhm, no, Author; I don’t want to, and you can’t make me.” She’s right, you see, I can’t make her. I’m not God; I’m only an author. I’m not causing everything to happen; I’m just telling the story of how it does. And just like real life, it is seldom a good idea to try and coerce someone to behave against their own convictions. It ends badly for everyone involved.
All I can tell you for sure is that Wicket Lake is a story about three young people and how they become who they become. It’s a story about jealousy and brokenness and despair and resentment, and how those things shape us, how they shape our worldview and our behavior. It is a story about how those emotions – if allowed to control us – can cause us to make really stupid and destructive choices.
At least… I think that’s what’s happening. That is my plan.
But as Davon taught me last week when he squarely refused to do as Koon instructed and thereby worked himself into a heap of trouble (they always blame the author, but Davon did this one all on his own; I tried to give him an easier journey because he’d already suffered an enormous amount of heartache for such a young person, but no – he insisted on going back to a place where he knew he wasn’t safe; what can I do about that? For all his stubbornness, though, I still love Davon, and so I gave him a cat, which was absolutely not in the plan – but then, neither was Davon’s rebellious behavior, so… I guess we’ll see how it works out, eh?), sometimes the story has to reveal itself as the characters come alive.
In the meantime… Wicket Lake is a story about two girls in competition for the rule of their nation… and a young man with a cat.
From the shores of Wicket Lake,