So, I’m four chapters into my new novel, The Life and Dreams of Tall Eagle. It’s an attempt to blend historical fantasy with heroic fantasy. The protagonist is a Native American circa 1700. Chapter 1 was written in about three sessions, after months of research and contemplation. Chapter 2 was about the same speed. Then, the Author’s Momentum began kicking in…Chapter 3 was two sessions. Chapter 4, where the plot really kicks into a higher gear, I banged out in a single marathon session. It had been building all through the previous chapters, and it came pouring out of me in a raw explosion of seething narrative. This is what happens when you write a novel…you build up momentum…like a snowball rolling downhill your writing sessions get faster and more massive. The feeling of “I’m really getting somewhere here” is a good one.

Then Real Life intervenes.

I’m not at the stage yet where I can shut out society and survival demands and focus on nothing but my novel for three or four months. Even though I’m on summer vacation from my teaching job, there are still “stuff” I gotta do–responsibilities I can’t ignore. So every now and then you have to skip a day or two of writing, and BAM! there goes your momentum. You’ve got to “dive back in” and get your rhythm going again. But maybe that’s the way all novels are written…in a series of broken rhythms that link into a greater pattern.

These types of “breaks” or pauses in creativity happen naturally, usually at organic points in the story when you need to ponder something slated for the next chapter, or when the story itself throws you for a loop and sends you in a different direction. All chapters are not created equal, so to speak. Some chapters (or sequences) require more “time-out” deliberation and meditation before you can hammer them into existence on your keyboard. Other chapters flow effortlessly because you know what you need and you can’t wait to slam it out.

The shape of your story will usually tell you when it’s time to take a break from the keyboard and spend more time cultivating the seeds of your thought. And too, the deeper you get into a novel, the more intricate your “weaving” becomes…the better you get to know your characters and your world…the more you have to consider as you walk the path of completion chapter-by-chapter.

So, even though I lost momentum thanks to Real World responsibilities, I’m going to dive back into the deep waters of  my new novel-in-progress with a positive attitude. At least I got to hammer out the action-packed Chapter 4 before stopping. I can’t help but believe that it’s a GOOD thing to pause and “cool down” after such a breakneck chapter. A novel should have its own sense of pacing, its own “movements,” a series of passages that build their own rhythm, and the tempo SHOULD vary from scene to scene.

I don’t want to write a solid “blast” of one-note fiction…that might work for a short story…but this is a novel. It’s got to rise and subside like the tides, slow and build steam, arrive at a climactic moment, then resettle for the next “act.” Then build again, and again…like a waveform…until it reaches the Big Climax toward the end…the sequence that resolves the novel’s main concerns and sets the stage for its conclusion. 

So today I intend to ride that wave…find that new rhythm…dive back into that Sea of Words and catch a wave.



UPDATE: I just finished the first draft of Chapter 5…wasn’t as difficult as I thought to recapture momentum! Unlike writing a brand-new short story, when doing the latest chapter of a novel you’re not under the burden of “starting from scratch.” Instead, you just keep the ball rolling…

It’s rolling!