What If?

By now some of you have probably read about my little shower epiphany. I was in a really dark place with book 4–the first in a series I’ve been working on since the spring–and even though I knew I was heading in the wrong direction I still didn’t know how to get the story back on track. I was frustrated and feeling defeated and chose to ignore the problem rather than dig my heels in and really work toward a solution. Starting over felt scary and like too much work and what if I wasn’t emotionally capable of doing it all over again? These were the lies I was telling myself. That fixing the story would be pointless; that it was impossible. Even though I knew in my gut that it was. Even though I knew in my gut that I wouldn’t be able sleep until I at least made the commitment to  finish this story and to do it right.

I spent days avoiding the story and doing my best not to think about all of the things that were wrong with it. Instead I foolishly tried to keep working on the first draft of its sequel (because you can totally write a sequel to something that will likely be destroyed once you finally swallow your pride). I even cleaned my whole apartment and did the laundry and the dishes and worked out! I was totally losing my mind.

But then, in the shower, finally alone with my thoughts with absolutely no way of distracting myself, I heard something. Faint at first but totally familiar, it was the one question that starts every story–what if?

I chewed on it for a while, repeating it over and over in my head until I could finish the sentence. What if… What if… What if…

What if there’s a better explanation for how my main characters meet?
What if there’s something special about my MC beyond her illness?
What if her illness is just a cover for that special thing? A veil meant to hide her from…who?
Who is after her?
Why?
How has she been living a normal human life up until this point?
How does she find out what really makes her different?
How does this change her?

Questions started piling on top of questions, the answers coming to me in these sharp elusive flashes. And 45 minutes later I finally had a core story problem that wasn’t so thin you could see right through it. Suddenly I had drama and suspense and a story. I had a story. All because I was finally able to ask myself that one question. The question I’d unconsciously been avoiding because I knew once I opened those floodgates there was no turning back. But asking that one question didn’t just give me clarity it gave me confidence. Confidence in my instincts and the reassurance that I shouldn’t be afraid to trust them, even when it seems like they’re leading me down the hardest road possible.

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