We’ve had a lot of posts here lately about our writing process, what works for us, and sometimes what doesn’t. We’ve also talked about writer’s block. What we haven’t talked about yet is the herding cats stage of writing. Coincidentally, that’s exactly where I am in my latest book, Pirates on Parade.
Pirates on Parade is a departure for me. I usually write traditional mysteries with an edge. Pirates is a cozy. The first in what I hope will be the Southernmost Secrets series set in the Florida Keys. I dove into this book with great excitement. The first chapters practically wrote themselves. Then came chapter 13.
Most writers will confess that they have a chapter or page count where they are certain:
- They have no idea how to write a book.
- No one would want to read it if they finished it.
- The other books were flukes.
- It’s time for the delete key.
Chapter 13 is it for me. I wrote it on Saturday and thought, this is awful. The entire book is dreck. I spent Sunday going through the manuscript finding plot holes, picking up threads of red herrings and theme, looking for clues I knew had planted and couldn’t find. I recited numbers 1 through 3 above out loud. Before I got to number 4 I realized (yet again) that writing a book is like herding cats, and chapter 13 is where I need to get my cats into the corral.
No more letting them laze about with nothing to do. No more letting them discuss what they are going to do. It’s time to for me take charge. By chapter 13 there should be order in the writer’s mind, if not the story. Carefully planted clues should begin to sprout. Chapter 13 is the waist of the story. The place for the first dramatic twist that turns the story in an unexpected, but inevitable new direction.
This story needed to lose a few pounds to bring it into form. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that despite my dark thoughts, most of the story was in place. The action made sense, the direction true. There needs to be some tightening, some remedial outlining, and I need to hone a subplot that I uncovered in my panicky race though the pages. Once that’s done, my cats will be in the corral and I can move forward and let them have their head again.
Why did I ever doubt it. I’ve herded cats before.
Writers, do you have a falter and move on point in your books? Is it in about the same place?
Readers, do you have expectations of the action of a story in the books you read? Where do you expect to find certain events and do you feel something is missing if they don’t show up?