I realized, late Saturday night last week (the 15th) as I was eating circles ’round my midnight snack of blackberry oatmeal prior to taking my night meds, that I have no freaking idea what I’m doing with my Nano wip. It hit me as I scraped another ring of oatmeal from the clump in the middle of the bottom of the bowl. I have no idea how to make this story work. How do I drop the clues? What should those clues be? How will my MCs figure things out? How on earth do I make the clues subtle, but not so subtle they don’t make sense when I CAN’T SEE CLUES IN MYSTERY BOOKS I’VE READ MYSELF?!?
I’ve been vaguely aware of a lot of these issues, and pointedly aware of the last issue since before beginning Masks, but that didn’t stop me then. It won’t stop me now. I’m committed to these characters now. If I don’t finish this book, I can’t write the half-dozen or so other books in their series, and I really really want to do that. I have plans for these characters. Fun plans, full of mayhem where my characters will learn things about themselves they wouldn’t otherwise know.
And, you know, the not-knowing is part of the fun for me. Writing a mystery novel, even dressed in the fantasy genre’s trappings, is a stretch for me. It’s a good stretch. One I need to make. It’s a challenge I set myself a few years ago, before I went way off course from Fantasy, and it’s one I don’t think I’d be trying to meet now if I hadn’t returned to fantasy writing. I may not be ready to face this challenge just yet, but I’m having fun trying right now, and that’s the most important factor.
I can fix the wip after I’m done. There are friends I have who’ve already offered to read through to help me with things. I can’t fix it if I don’t write it, and I have a feeling that the first three—four—five—six—whatever!—of these fantasy mysteries will all be learning experiences for me.
I haven’t been this uncertain of my writing skills since the mid-late 90’s. Back when I was really picking up on learning how to improve my writing. And I kind of like that uncertainty. It’s going to force me to do things I don’t usually have to do any more. Hell, with this mystery series, I might find myself developing new habits just for it—or new habits I can use in all my writing, and that means writing this fantasy mystery series is a good thing all around.
To be honest, I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. I’ve repeatedly put it to my subconscious/creative mind/muse/what-you-will that I want to write something challenging, something to force me out of the comfortable little rut I’ve created for myself. Something that makes me think and gives me the fun kind of anxiety about fitting everything in like I want to. I’ve wanted something to write that fills my head as I’m working on it—and Masks is doing that.
Each day before I get my new plot card on the Nano wip, I read through a couple scenes, just before where I’ve stopped writing. Then I read through each and every one of the fifteen plot cards I’ve worked out from where the prose stops. I must. Sometimes I read through the all of what I have of the wip to make sure I have everything as it needs to be for the plot cards to work and for other ideas (since written scenes don’t always follow the plot cards they’re spawned from precisely) to form. After reading the plot cards, I think real hard on what the next scene should be, sometimes even going to lay down and listen to “Space Time” by Chang Jing or “Heavy In Your Arms” by Florence + the Machine with my eyes closed. I may fall asleep, but I usually come back to my computer with an idea for the next plot card, so I can write the next scene and hopefully catch my Nano daily goal—or maybe even surpass it by a couple hundred or so words.
And the whole time, I’m excited, and I’m outlining scenes I look forward to writing out. I think this is the right time to write this, no matter how unready I feel, because this story is so much fun to write right now. It’s the challenge I’ve been looking for.