There’s a point I always reach in writing a novel that feels like running headlong into a brick wall, and I’ve reached it with my novel-in-progress.

It usually comes about 50 or 75 pages in, when the initial idea has begun to have some “legs.” Many scenes have been written, characters begin to emerge. Sometimes the wall comes in the form of a plot stumper, an inability to construct the book’s events. Sometimes it comes, as it has now, in the form of a stylistic question so palpable I feel like I’m physically wrestling with it.

I have a pretty good idea of the novel’s form and characters, as well as the overall plot arc. The problem is that I can’t decide on the voice: first person or third person? Given the form, first person makes the most sense. But I know what a challenge first person can be. The novel before “Dance of Souls” was written in alternating first-person accounts. It was a bear.

What I should do is try writing the chapters I have already completed both ways before going on. This goes against everything my fingers are itching to do, which is to keep writing, keep exploring, keep unfolding, accumulating new pages. How can I possibly “waste” precious writing time going over stuff I’ve already written, changing pronouns?

What I know now that I didn’t know ten years ago when I last encountered this problem is that if I go on without testing my assumptions I may end up with a flawed product requiring so much time and effort to fix that I never do it. (This concept has a parallel in the business world, as I learned from my work with PDC, Inc., which counsels companies on creating products based on customer needs. When one of their clients protests that the prescribed research will take too much time up front, they sagely point out that it will take far more time–and money–to do everything over again when you realize toward the end of the development process that you have been working all along on the wrong product.)

So now I know what I’ll be doing for my next writing sessions: searching and replacing “she” for “I” and “her” for “mine” and then trying, as best I can, to read it all over with a keen eye.

I sure wish there were another way.

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