Saturday, February 20, 2016

My Writing Process: Reaching Critical Mass

chimney, smoke, power plant, industrial, night, sky, dark, evening
It's happened with every book I've written, and now that I'm working on number four, I feel like I can say every book. I'm beyond a trilogy into a series. But what am I talking about? Reaching critical mass.

What is critical mass? According to, the term has its origins in physics: the amount of a given fissionable material necessary to sustain a chain reaction at a constant rate. In other words, once you reach critical mass, the reaction is self-sustaining. It doesn't need any more fuel. It basically runs on its own without any outside interference.

book, reading, learning, study, educationBooks reach critical mass. Books I'm reading and books I'm writing. Or at least I hope a book I'm reading does. I've read stories that ran out of gas partway there. I usually finished them anyway because, well, that's what I do. But a great book has a point at which something happens. An event, a change, a major revelation--something. At that point, the reaction between reader and book is self-sustaining and I better hope I don't have any pressing engagements because I'm going to jettison everything I can in order to keep reading until the end.

I've found that the same thing happens as a writer. It's not always at the same point in the story, but somewhere along the lines, I get captured in the interplay of the characters and the ball starts rolling toward the conclusion and I neither can nor want to stop it. I'm at that point in my new Shalan adventure. I'd been tinkering with it and making some small progress in figuring out the arc to the finish. But something just seemed to be missing.

laptop, computer, business, technology, keyboard, office, desk, workThen a couple days ago, I went back and looked for what it was that was off. I realized there was a gaping hole in the plot that made Harry's journey back to wholeness ring false. It was too easy. He was broken and then, almost overnight, he was better. It just didn't feel right. So I set about filling the hole. In the process I created a new character who will help lead him out of his personal abyss. This new relationship will add a depth of resonance to the story that just wasn't there. It makes all the difference.  

Now that this plot element is clearing up, I'm ready to finish the book. I now have all the players in place. As a result, as opposed to how it is before I reach this point in the writing and sometimes have to talk myself into sitting down to write, now I look at my daily schedule as things I have to get out of the way (kind of like this blog post) in order to have time to write. And that's how I'll be until I get the rough draft finished, at which point I'll be able to take a few days to step away before going back to work on draft #2.

But until then, if you're my friend in real life, just be prepared for me to be making excuses when you invite me to do something. I'm sorry, but I can't--I'm busy writing.

No comments:

Post a Comment