“Know the story before you fall in love with your first sentence. If you don’t know the story before you begin the story, what kind of a storyteller are you? Just an ordinary kind, just a mediocre kind – making it up as you go along, like a common liar.” John Irving
My first week of summer leave flew by in a cloud of dust and debris. The detritus of six months of inattention and schedules that are just too tight to allow any real deep housecleaning had to be purged. The house usually appears relatively tidy on the surface but underneath lurks a monster. This week I attacked the monster... and clipped it's toenails. Last night I told Bob that what I really want right now is a dumpster. I would open the windows upstairs and just toss everything in. Craft projects never completed? Into the dumpster! Clothes that haven't been worn in years.. or ever? Into the dumpster! Paper.. paper.. and more paper.. into the dumpster! I'm like this when overwhelmed by my own inaction and desperate to get on top of the problem. Obsessive, over-committed, willing to throw it all away and start fresh. You've probably figured out that I'm not just talking about housekeeping now, right?
A fresh start. In life this is pretty hard to achieve but in writing it's easy. If you don't like where your story is going just toss it out and start again.. it's all just made up anyway! And that is the problem. If it's just make-believe to you then you aren't telling the truth. If you aren't planning a future for your characters they will never live on paper or in the minds of your readers. If you have no compunction about literally throwing your baby out with the bathwater then why in the world are you writing?
Unfortunately, my writing life lately is a lot like my housekeeping. Six months of doing nothing has left me aching to write but there are monsters lurking in my subconscious, and they won't consent to being tossed, shredded, or stuffed in a box and dropped off at goodwill. What kind of storyteller am I? Desperate to get something on paper in the six weeks I have left before I go back to work I risk becoming a common liar.