Tuesday night. This week brought us a new schedule, with adjustments to our daily chores and other tasks, so we’ve gone to bed early. All the lights are out, the air-conditioner is running, all is comfortable and quiet … yet I lay there helplessly awake.
There’s no reason for it — at least not at first. Then I hear the cries.
At first I try to ignore them. Come on, I don’t have time for that now, not tonight and likely not this week either. I won’t even have time to work on that. And surely not now, when what I really need is to catch up on sleep, especially in advance of tomorrow, with an article to write in the morning about the late meeting I had attended earlier and …
Still the cries won’t stop. What is the problem? Obviously it won’t quit. The sole solution is clear: I’ll have to delay my sleeping, get up, stumble downstairs, and start feeding it.
All right, fine. I’m here now. Settling into the desk chair, I pull up the laptop screen and squint, not only from the sudden glow but from the weaker-prescription glasses I still use at nighttime. Click, click — I reach up to switch on both bulbs of the nearby light fixture. Fine, let’s go ahead and do something. What was that first constantly recurring thought that wouldn’t go away?
Up comes the file. It bears the project’s name, along with Dreams and Elements. (By now I’m sure these grandiose-sounding file titles are just for me.) My last note here was from Tuesday, Aug. 17. Really, that recently? Just a week ago. I hit enter, giving a new bullet point, and type.
“Live by the flatscreen, die by the flatscreen.” That may end up being a direct quote from a 77-year-old man, to another man. I add the attributions, and a date and time — why, I’m not sure.
Now the crying isn’t so loud. It seems much more content. And that wasn’t so hard to write, was it? Sometimes these novel ideas seem far more intimidating than they actually turn out to be. Of course, this is from the perspective of someone unpublished, on the creating side, not the editing/selling side. But even here, the idea of actually trying to create a sequel, to a story whose first draft I only finished in the spring, seems insurmountable, possibly even egotistic.
Another note of the date and time, and another description: Much thought just now, in bed, leads to this quasi-final conception of [this novel’s] two-part finale. … That paragraph turns out much longer than I would have thought. Then another note, then another, and another …
Finally all is quiet again. Is that it? The crying has stopped. I can go back to bed.
Reality returns the following morning. My wife heads to work, and later so do I. Wow! Now here’s something even more spellbinding: the county fiscal court approved its real and personal property tax rates for this year. Hey, it’s a living (and even this can honor God).
The article is done. I hear another whimper. That dreams-and-elements file is still open. If I don’t write this, I’ll wrongly assume I’ll remember it later — and might not. Well, okay.
Just one more note. It ends with jobs and more for the poor.
Hours later I still don’t know what happened. I’m not ready for this. I won’t be able to follow through, I’m not mature enough, need to grow up better. This is a task to do later on, right, maybe after I’ve prepared better, or accomplished some other need, or obtained others’ interest in the first project in this series! Why go ahead and have another one? There’s no point to it, I’ll first need to do more research for it, and it’s too big, it’s too complex a goal, and …
And now it’s macro-outlined, in 2,140 words. Those five pages describe the entire story. It includes the main points. Subplots are either in there or hinted at. By seeming accident I’ve gotten in all the themes — as far as I can tell — that seem naturally interwoven. Those last few notes were the key. Suddenly I found: there’s no longer an excuse to avoid starting this now.
A newborn novel. It’s kept me up nights, required feeding here and there, and could prove to be a tremendous responsibility. Yet possibly in all my attempts to push back a bigger project, convinced it would be presumptuous or irresponsible to try this now, before I’ve grown more as a writer and attempting novelist — I would be avoiding the very means by which I’m supposed to grow more as a writer, or become the proud father of actual novels.
Who knows for sure? Only the Author of Life itself. And I’m reminded that in other areas of life — becoming more like Christ, falling in love and pursuing marriage, or actual parenthood to real-life children — He throws us into situations before we expect. We may not have prepared for these tasks in advance. Rather, undertaking the task itself is the preparation.
So what now? Well, one week later I’m five chapters in — not working on the novel itself, but a micro-outline. This outline will be much more detailed, and it’s based on 40 two-line chapter summaries written last Thursday. Even more I’m learning about this story and how to be a good guardian in helping it grow. Sure, I don’t have perfect experience at this, but that doesn’t matter. I’m trying anyway, and I hope for God’s glory.
Now I wonder how others deal with the sudden arrival of a new novel or story concept. When do ideas enter your mind? Where do themes, visuals, dialogue, descriptions, plot twists, action sequences interfere with other tasks? How do you track them? What accounts might you have heard from other authors whose work you enjoy?
And while you’re pondering that, perhaps I’ll go play more with the new arrival. …