Thursday, May 19, 2016

This Writing Life: Springing a Leak, Author-Style

Happy one year in the house!

By Lisa Alber

A year ago, exactly, to this day, May 19th, 2015, I closed on my very first house, my own little sanctuary away from the world. Cheers! To one year!

Alas, this little house of mine, it had a dry rot problem, which is common in the Pacific Northwest, so I shelled out major moulah to get it fixed. Fine. Fixed. Yay!

A year later, my house sprang a leak. I hoped and prayed that the contractor's guy had fixed the problem last month, but, no, he had not <insert your expletive here>.

The funny thing is that I think my house channeled my inner writing demons, because I've been having the worst problem with the ending of my work-in-progress. I know the ending--I've always known whodunit and whydunit, so why can't I get to "The End"? I keep writing scenes that aren't getting me there.

Over the weekend, as the rain poured down, and as raindrops tap-tap-tap-ed into a bucket, I had an epiphany: My plot had sprung a leak somewhere. That's why I couldn't finish--

and, to continue this awkward leakage metaphor, I couldn't help but think of a garden hose, and how you don't get no water pressure out the end of the thing if it's leaking somewhere along the way to the end.

Despite my anxiety about finishing by deadline (at one point I started to whimper, which I sometimes do under extreme stress), I decided to slow down for a day or two. It was no use trying to force a bad end to the story. It just wasn't feeling right. Instead, I called the contractor, waited around for him (isn't that always the way?), and realized that I felt relief along with the anxiety.

When it comes to the writing, I've learned to trust my gut, and my gut said, Oh yeah, baby, now you're thinking about it the right way--which is to say, thinking outside my own box, the box I'd written myself into by the end that wouldn't end itself.

I was still freaking out--deadlines will do that--but as I watched my cute contractor walk up the stairs ahead of me and do his thing with plastic and hammer and nails and a long piece of wood (now, now, no double entendre meant by that!), I decided it was no use freaking out. My contractor wasn't. He was doing the next logical task. He didn't appear phased by the leak, and as he said, Yes, leaks happen, but they're fixable. Sometimes you just gotta dig a little deeper than the first obvious, easy fix.

So it goes with my novel. I talked myself off the ledge of total hysteria that my story required a complete tear down. No, no, no-ditty no no. Was the contractor going to have to tear down the house? Of course not.

And wouldn't you know it, as soon as I let it be okay to think about revisions before officially finishing the first draft, some new and interesting plot ideas came to me -- changes that I can already tell will allow me to get to the end.

How well do you trust your gut in life? Has it ever failed you?

Lisa Alber is the author of the County Clare mysteries. Her debut novel, Kilmoon, has been called "utterly poetic" and "a stirring debut." Her second in the County Clare mysteries, WHISPERS IN THE MIST will be available in August 2016 from Midnight Ink Books. Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging round out her distractions. You can find Lisa on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.


Shannon Baker said...

Leaking plots! What a great analogy. I really hate it, though, when I have to reshingle the whole damned roof!

Lisa Alber said...

Hah, Shannon! Now that would be some major leaking--I think I'll be reshingling author-wise over the next month ... sigh ...

Edith Maxwell said...

Glad you got both plot and leak sorted out, Lisa!

Kirsten Weiss said...

Here's to minor renovations over a complete tear-down!