I am about one-third of the way through the fifth novel in my Rebecca Series. How do I know?
Two ways. One, of course, the word count on my laptop shows about 33,000 words, and the other four Rebecca novels have ranged from 90,000 to 115,000.
The second way is the nature of the decisions I keep making, almost on a daily basis. For example, at this point in the story there is no single individual identified by name as Rebecca’s (and Jack McGriff’s) prime adversary. For my adult stories to work well, there needs to be a single person who fills the role of evil personified. A person who seems driven by Evil – with a capital “E” – in ways that are obvious to the reader. I’m still waiting for that character to emerge, but I’ve reached a tentative decision as to his identity. (Yes, in this novel, probably a “he.”)
For another example, I find that the nature of the priorities held by the “bad guys” is still evolving. I see that they have formulated four major goals in a secret document, and that those goals are rank-ordered, but that’s their “official” set of goals. I’m not yet sure if those priorities are going to hold in place on a day-to-day (page-to-page and chapter-to-chapter) basis.
For a third example, I see that it is not yet clear who is actually in charge of the “good guys.” The fact that my adult novels comprise The Rebecca Series does not necessarily mean that Rebecca is in charge of everything her family and colleagues attempt to do. She is always a key figure, but that is not the same as being the lead decision-maker in all situations.
Finally, it’s obvious to me that the love story is still very much in its infancy. I need to see how fast or slow that element is going to move forward in this novel.
The wording of those paragraphs may be confusing to some of you. When I write that I’m still not sure who the main adversary is, or what actual priorities the adversaries are going to hold, or who is the lead decision-maker in Rebecca’s group, or how rapidly the love story will move forward, it must sound to you as though I, the author, do not regard myself as being in charge of my own story! Exactly.
The reason I’ve never experienced what some call “writer’s block” is that it has never seemed to me that I was making the decisions about the particulars. Yes, I have always made the decisions about the major issues and the general direction of my stories, but it has always been clear to me that the characters decide the details: what, exactly, happens next? what, exactly, will be said next? what, exactly, will determine the outcome? what, exactly, will be the concluding segue into the next novel?
And all of that, of course, is what makes novel-writing so interesting for the author. This author is always looking forward to the next scene, because I am never sure what that next scene is going to look like.
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