An article I posted last week made the excellent point that you can’t know what your novel-writing process is until you’ve completed a novel. In my experience, working out one’s process is a whole lot of trial and error, emphasis on the error.
I want there to be intention as to where my stories go and what messages live in them, so in theory I don’t like the idea of just writing and seeing where it takes me. On the other hand, before I started writing, I thought creating an outline before writing the manuscript would lead to a boring and predictable text that lacked spontaneity.
I’ve come to see that my main issue sprouts up before I have the chance to take either of these tacks, namely, establishing the protagonist’s motivation. At the start, the concept for my first novel was sweet, but it didn’t have enough weight for a reader to positively need to continue reading. Every time I get closer to that in my edits, something else falls into place—or falls out of the novel all together, because it turns out not to be important.
My mind’s been spinning recently with an idea for a new project. I don’t think it will be quite as light as my first, but I can already see that some of the themes that come naturally to me will have a place. One thing I know for sure is that I want to understand where my protagonist is coming from before too many words hit the page. It’s really hard to make sense of the whole story when I don’t have firmly grounded why it’s important in the first place.
Where is this new protagonist headed? I still don’t know. And I think I’m okay with giving that a try, as long as I know why she’s on the road.