These last few weeks, my life has mirrored my book. I’ve been drowning in sticky plot holes, and it’s been hard to stay afloat.
But just as I’m confident that I will — somehow — resolve the ending of my novel, I’m also getting stronger at fighting those negative thoughts that have recently sought to drown me.
Although, I’m not yet ready to talk about what has unsettled me so profoundly, I’m going to use my re-ignited positivity to look at ways to resolve those sticky moments we encounter both in life and fiction.
For I’m close enough to see the light ahead, and I’m going for it. Here are three ways that are helping me to get there:
1. Breaking it down
Although it’s great to see the big picture and know where you want to be, it can feel overwhelming.
Like a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, it’s great to have the image on the box in front of you, but it doesn’t mean that you still don’t have to piece it all together.
Like the ending of my book, I know how I want it to resolve and I know where it needs to end up, but I’m not yet sure exactly how it happens (although I’m very close). You see, I have many different viewpoints, different characters and different timeframes, each one adding different elements to what happened to Jane Bardot on the night she died.
And amongst all the layers, I somehow have to find the truth.
But every time I try to put the pieces all together, some of the pieces don’t fit, and I have to take it all apart again. It’s frustrating
This is similar to how I feel about what’s happening in my life at the moment. I have a clear picture of being finished and out the other side of this obstacle. But unfortunately I have some work to do to get there. And it scares me to think of what I have to go through to reach this desired outcome. Although deep down, I know I can do it.
So I’m breaking it down, section by section, piece by piece, step by step. Both in my writing and in my life, I’m not looking too far ahead. I’m taking it all as it comes.
For my novel, I’ve divided up the ending into sections. I’ve listed the events that need to happen, and I’ve taken them on one by one, expanding on each one before moving onto the next.
I’ve also kept the details as simple as possible, because I don’t want to add to what I’ve already got to resolve. It’s too near the end for further complications.
In my life, I’m also taking it one day at a time. Trying not to fill my head with ‘what ifs’ about the future. It’s not easy, but writing helps, talking helps; so does focusing on the good and accepting only the most immediate challenge without thinking of those ahead.
Because surely it is best not to waste energy on the last step before the first has even been attempted.
2. Don’t rush
It can be easy to get caught up in the race of day to day life. I put pressure on myself to accomplish many goals in a short amount of time. Between when I drop the girls at kindy to when I pick them, I have six whole hours; but it never seems like it when I’ve decided, in that time, I have to clean the house, do the food shopping, write a blog post, check my emails, take our dog for walk, pay some bills, write a book review, and perhaps do some more of that online course I committed to.
I rush around like a mad thing, often making myself so worked up, I find it hard to focus and accomplish anything.
So, now gone are the long to-do lists that make me feel like crap when they’re still there at the end of the day. It’s time to take things slowly. Cross off one thing at a time. Feel the joy of each achievement
Why multi-task and risk failing when you can take each item by itself and make sure it’s done well? Even though it sometimes doesn’t feel like it, time is actually on our side. Get it right; don’t rush. And things will work out the way they’re meant to.
In my day-to-day life, I’m getting better at immersing myself in each moment. Now — when I go for a walk — I don’t spend the whole time thinking about what’s left to do that day. Instead, I let my mind wander, I repeat affirmations to myself, or I simply think of nothing at all, except how pretty the trees are or how happy my doggie looks.
There is no rush, except the one we place upon ourselves. And if the pressure is coming from another source, ask yourself: is it really such a good idea to let something — or someone — control you and make you feel bad in the process?
Like with my writing, I’ve felt a lot of pressure to finish this book. Over the last three years, it’s grown from something personal into something public, which is as much my fault as the industry that insists you should establish yourself as an author before you’ve even published a book.
But it’s important for me to remember that I’m writing as much for myself as I am for others. And it really is an enjoyable process, getting out of a sticky plot hole 🙂
There’s nothing better than the feeling of that Eureka! moment when the problem is resolved and you can move forward with the story.
And — as far as I’m concerned — this can take as much time as it needs to resolve itself. After all, it’s hard to force creativity (although you can certainly give her a nudge sometimes.)
It will come when it comes. And when it does, trust it will be at the right time.
3. Preparing for the twist
We don’t know what the future holds. We might plan for a certain outcome, but invariably things change. Things throw us. Things turn out a completely different way than expected.
This is why I’m not even planning the final twist of my book. After the plot has been resolved, and the reader is satisfied with the resolution, I’m leaving my twist to reveal itself, so it feels spontaneous and surprising. However:
As in life, we can do our bit to prepare ourselves for a plot twist. We might not know what’s going to happen, but we can be sure that sudden developments do sometimes arise from out of nowhere, and we can learn techniques to handle them.
So I am doing my best to prepare for anything right now. I’m not focusing on the worst, but I’m preparing myself in case the worst might happen. I’m building up my strength by exercising, eating well, reducing my alcohol intake (!) and dabbling in meditation. I want to improve my overall wellbeing so that I’m strong enough to take on any aberrations.
And with my book? Well, I’ve sowed some seeds throughout the story. Some may sprout and some may sleep. Some might be dug up completely. You see:
You can’t have a twist without giving the reader some hint as to how it happened. You need to lay the groundwork, make sure that there are strong foundations.
I can’t just end my book with the clouds opening to reveal an alien spaceship dropping our Jane Bardot on the beach. (Or can I? ) 😉
So, I’ll be realistic. I’ll base the twist on what’s gone before, what preparations I’ve made for the reader. And when the book is finished in a way that fits, in a way that will be understood at some later point in time, I’ll feel ready to tackle the next book.
For I will get through this, and someday I will start the next new chapter…
Staying afloat takes support
So pull your loved ones closer, enjoy their company, take onboard their advice and thoughts and feelings. Pat your dog, pet your cat, read books and articles to help you. Get that support whatever way you can, while giving back your trust and strength and kindness.
Keep your passion alive and use it to help you. And if you don’t know what it is, trust that it will find you.
I have wonderful people with me: my husband, my little girls, my old friends and new. Even people I’ve never met face to face, or am meeting for the first time — everyone is doing their part to support me — whether they know it or not. Look around and you will find them too.
Thank you to those reading. Thank you to those who care.
And I hope I’ve gone a little way to support those who might be in a similar situation to me. When you’re not sure how to stay afloat…
And be prepared for anything.
It’s all anyone can do.
PS. I finished this blog post with five minutes to spare before I had to pick the girls up from kindy. And I didn’t even plan to finish it on time. Winning!
PPS. The house is still a mess, but I don’t mind 😉