So here is where I am at with my first attempt at a novel. Wait…let me re-phrase that. I have had many attempts at a first novel so, really, here is where I am at with my first attempt at a novel I am forcing myself to finish. That’s better.
My novel right now is a tree. Let me explain. I have the core idea with roots firmly planted into the ground. I have my main characters developed in my head and they are wonderful little darlings. The base of my novel is strong and thick and ready to take on anything. It sounds like my novel is in a wonderful place then, right? Why the heck am I complaining??
Well, dear reader, what happens when you move farther up the trunk of my mighty novel? You get branches. What is so bad about branches, you say? Well because there are way too many of them going in too many directions. None of these branches are really trumping the other ones, so I am stuck in a tangle of possible scenes and plot outcomes that don’t interconnect at all.
I will from now on call this the curse of the tree novel. I doubt this will be the last time my seedling of an idea will produce this problem for me. Usually, having an ending figured out will help you overcome this issue but alas, it is not helping me. For each “branch” of a direction I take, I can see a different ending and I’m not sure which one is the best for this book.
What does this mean? That I don’t know my story as well as I thought I did. Maybe I know my characters on a friend level, but we have to get down and dirty together to sort this out. They have to be like my sister, mother, brother, lover-level. I have to know them inside and out to know what would be the best direction for them to take while also making the novel the best it can be.
Solution: Cut the tree down and make a house. The trunk of my tree was my foundation and so I have that already. What I need to do is figure out how many levels will my house have (what are the main points of conflict leading to the climax)? How many windows and doors from the outside will I let in (Multiple POV or single?) And what kind of stairs will I create to lead up to each level (scenes that heighten the conflict and stakes).
Plot out the scenes that you have already cemented down. Nothing is sacred in the novel and we can tear out concrete if we have to, but if you put something in concrete then, most likely, it will be easiest to build around those areas and (hopefully) they are already pretty strong scenes.
What makes this even harder is that I am planning this as a trilogy so I really need to build three houses on the same block that work well together. I can’t have a nice little cottage next to a colossal mansion followed by a double-wide trailer. The following two books can just be a blueprint of the houses you will be building, but without it, it will be difficult to tie in clues and unsettled conflict for the other two books to address.
I have heard that note cards are really helpful for something like this because it makes it visual and you can easily move around scenes and ideas to see what heightens the conflict best. I am going to try the note card idea and I will let you know how it goes. Either way, I can’t stare at this damn tree anymore!