The Agony of Writing and Crafting a Plot

Writing is a strange experience. At times the words, ideas, dialogue, narrative, and all the rest of it  flow with ease. It's simply a matter of sitting down and banging it out. That flow is a remarkable, exhilarating sensation, characterized by clarity, intense focus, and unbounded mental freedom I've never otherwise encountered. At other times, and far too often, nothing comes of the effort. The words are wrong, the dialogue is broken, the narrative is overdone, and all the rest of it is jammed up in an indecipherable jumble that cripples the creative process. This can go on for months, or in my case years.

My first real encounter with the second of the two above descriptions came while writing The Flemish CoilI wrote myself into a corner with an implausible major plot point and two overdrawn characters that took nearly two years to resolve. I came back to the manuscript dozens of times in those two years until the logjam broke and my earlier errors were one after another crushed by a fresh, lucid epiphany. Once that happened, I was able to finish the manuscript in less than two months.

My most recent encounter with drawn-out creative frustration has been in finding the right plot elements for what will be Nick Temple File no. 5, The Shadow Chamber. As I worked through additional research, outlining, and character development this morning, the way out of the box I'd created hit me! The story I'd imagined ended too soon, but I couldn't, for more than a year, figure out how to cure that obvious defect. I call it obvious now, but until about two hours ago I didn't really see it. I knew something was wrong, and this morning I figured out what that something is. What a relief! The story is now compelling enough to drive the process in a way not earlier possible. My own excitement about the prospect of crafting the story as I now imagine it will provide, I hope, the drive needed to finally get that story out of my head and onto paper. All of the broad elements are in place, and everything I do from this point on will be informed by those elements until completion.

As I said, writing is a strange experience. And if you're not in it for the long game, you don't have a chance.