R is for Repeating "O" #AtoZChallenge

Due to mismanagement on my part, I did not get an R post, but thankfully I received two "O" posts. This one was going to be originally run in May. I bring it in early as a REPEAT.

"O" is for OMG
Will This Never End?

Post by Guest Blogger Susie Moloney

I’ve been a writer all my life. My first novel, “Blackie the Beetle,” was written when I was just seven. It’s not my best work. For one thing, it’s derivative, very much like what I was reading at the time--things like Dick and Jane Go To The Store--so the characterization is simplistic, with little layering. The ending was probably too short and abrupt.

It’s fully illustrated. Hand bound.

The narrative, however, in spite of being simple and an obvious rip off of other insect books of the time, was very well structured, with a clear arc and a slam bam ending, however abrupt.

I beautifully followed the rule of a having a well-stated beginning, middle, and ending. There are even a few stylistic surprises in the middle that really keep you reading to the end. It’s a good, basic story, with a solid plot:

Set up: I have a water beetle, his name is Blackie. He lives in a jar. There is water in the jar, with rocks at the bottom, and a stick.

Middle: Blackie swims all day. He likes his stick.

Slam, bam, (if abrupt) ending: Blackie is a good beetle.

Completely believable, that little bit in the middle about how he likes his stick—pure fiction, by the way, because as far as I remember he never went near that stick—that bit brought him into our hearts, and so that by the time we were at the end, we had entirely bought into the idea that Blackie was a good beetle. Of course he was, we know that because he liked that stick.

Obviously, story set up is instinct and at seven, like every little kid, I followed my instincts and used the middle to sell my ending.

My stories are substantially longer now, and a little more complicated (sadly, not much). I’m also writing for a tougher audience than my sister and my mom, an audience that expects more bang for the buck, so to say.

(I’m not really making as much in the long run, however, since I used to make my mom pay me a nickel for my books, and I was getting all my expenses paid, including papers, pens, staples, crayons, etc. Sucker.)

But it also means that the middle of my stories carry more weight. And they’re long. Oh God, how long they are.

I’m currently writing a new novel, a story I’ve had in my head for awhile. When I started writing it—last October, actually, I had already been thinking about it for almost a year, and I thought I really had it ready to go. I stabbed out an outline, very rough, almost literally a beginning, middle (“he likes his stick”), and end. Called it a day. Started writing. The fun, sexy, can’t-wait set up took me about three months. Great start.

Now I’m in the long, gosh-darn, oh my heck, middle and my story has to come from the set up, and speak to the ending. And here I am, writing all the fun and games and trying to make it work. My day goes something like this:

Excellent, that character can punch that one in the nose. Good start up. Can bring that back up towards then end, sets up that she was violent.

Wait! I said in the beginning that she had been in juvenile hall for six months. And her mother was violent. That won’t work, I’ll have to up the ante. Hey! She uses … A CROWBAR. Yeah.

Crowbar scene.

WAIT! Crowbars are out of season. Damn. Can I change the season? Does it matter? Just has to be a season when it rains. So it could be … well sort of has to be early spring …

And there you go.

When I was writing my break out novel, A DRY SPELL, I was under the most undoable deadline you can imagine. I was writing five hours a day and getting out about 2500 words. I had an outline, but really, I flew by the seat of my pants. That one was written on adrenaline, cigarettes and fear. In other words: instinct. When I was writing THE DWELLING, I had copious storylines and so had copious notes pinned up on the bulletin board, one following the other, in rows. They juggled and changed, but I followed them carefully because the book was about three families, all with different stories. My currently-on-the-market book, THE THIRTEEN was written while I was homeschooling my son. So that one was written at night and kept light and simple (it’s one of my better ones, actually).

This book that I am writing now, the one with possibly the worst working title I’ve ever used, has so far been a mix of all of those techniques, including fear. Fear’s a pretty good motivator and I’m on the clock again. My board is full of little notes that keep changing and evolving, I know my ending and now it’s a matter of getting there.

If you count my biography of Blackie the Beetle, and two bottom drawer books that will never see the light of day—god willing--this is my seventh novel. Why isn’t it easy? Why haven’t I figured out how to get this right from the start? You know why?

Because the middle is where the real story is told, and that story is different every time. Those characters are new people and I owe them a substantial, believable story. I have a new point to make, and I’m writing from a new point of view, because I’m a different writer with every new story.

Beginnings and endings are appies and dessert. Coq au vin is the middle. You don’t want to screw that up or they won’t come back the next time.

God help me. This will never end, or get easier, and neither of those things even hint at why I can’t wait to sit down in the morning and get started again, just to prove to someone that I can do it right again, just like in that first book. Blackie was a good beetle.

He loved that stick.

Susie Moloney is the author of Bastion Falls, A Dry Spell, and The Dwelling. Her novel The Thirteen is available now, in bookstores everywhere.

Follow her on Twitter: @Susiemoloney

Friend her on Facebook: HERE

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