For a while now, I’ve been kicking a novella around my writing desk in the hopes that its missing piece would make itself known. Despite beta readers telling me they enjoyed it, there has always been something not quite right about it. Something that nagged me. Something that made me feel uncomfortable about saying ‘It’s done!’ Every so often I have taken it out, dusted it off and had another crack at it but still that something eluded me, until yesterday.
And let me just say, wow. It’s a pretty magical feeling when you finally identify that missing piece.
So, how did I find this rare little plot point hiding in the maelstrom of all the other pieces? Well, I went back to the classics. Over the past year or so I’ve been making my way through ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces: the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell’. It is not the easiest prose to read and I end up with a lot of notes and references to check after reading only a few pages, so it’s definitely more studying than light reading. Together with Clara Pinkola Estes’ ‘Women who Run with Wolves’ and Carl Jung’s ‘Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious’ as well as ‘The Epic Hero’ by Dean Miller, this book has had a big influence on the way I think about plots and characters.
I have always been a big fan of mythology and would even go so far as to say it formed a large part of my scholarly endeavours during my university years. The way that different cultures have shared and borrowed different narrative archetypes from each other over the eons is fascinating (and is another book project I have in mind for when I’ve finished my current projects).
Thus, I decided to take Joseph Campbell’s plot cycle and apply it to my novella.
Lo and behold! Suddenly I could see that there were a couple of rather important steps in my main character’s journey that I had pretty much just jumped right over. And it was precisely these steps that were causing my brow to furrow whenever I looked at the arc of her narrative as a whole. It was a bit of a eureka moment, I’m not going to lie. There were definitely some minor celebrations in the form of home baked cookies and a frothy coffee as a result. There may even have been some mild ‘hurray’-ing.
Needless to say, it is moments like these that remind me why editing is really the best part of writing a story. Sure, the initial rush of getting something down in it’s entirety is great, as any Nanowrimo winner will tell you. But it is the weeks, months, sometimes years, of pulling, pushing, tearing down and building back up that really make a story sing. It is these moments when I fancy I feel the presence of the muses, hovering around my head, drinking mead and munching on crackers and occasionally yelling something at me. They’re a fickle lot, but at least they’re watching.
Until next time, keep on creating!