A Brainful of Ideas

Over the end-of-year break, I decided to jump ahead a bit and start plotting the next draft of my middle-grade magical realism novel. Usually, I really want to write to the end, but I had realized that the ending chapters from my first draft were really as complete as I could make them, at this point. And I had lots of ideas about what to change/add in the beginning and middle that I wanted to start getting down on paper.

So I sent the final chapters to my critique group, and I started work in a plotting spreadsheet. Mostly, right then, I was just trying to get the important scenes down with some general notes & thoughts. And I wanted to hear what my critique group said about the ending.

The good news: They liked it. They had lots of thoughts & suggestions (because they’re Super Critiquers), but they were totally on board with the main direction. So, yay!

And the not-so-good news isn’t really not-so-good. It’s just my internal doubt machine saying, sure, yeah, the ending works, but do you really know how to get there yet? Do I have ideas? Oh, I have ideas! I have ideas out the wazoo! Some of them are on sticky notes attached to the previous draft. Some of them are in the spreadsheet I started. A couple of the really important ones are on even bigger sticky notes stuck to my monitor. And some of them–a whole lot of them–are bopping around in my brain. I can tell you about the themes. I can tell you about each character’s big problem, including all the secondary characters. I can tell you ways those problems will interact with my hero’s big problem. I can even, finally, tell you about a few of the bad things I’ve come up with for my hero to do.

But can I see how it all goes together, seamlessly, beautifully, into that novel I want to write, that novel I want kids to read?

Not yet.

When I expressed this at my critique group, one of my friends told me this means I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Where I feel like I know too much, even if that feeling comes with not knowing what to do with it all. I think she’s probably right. I think I’d be saying the same thing to her if she was at this stage. For all I know, I have said it!

I’m totally excited about the Middle Grade Intensive I’m attending this weekend, in Oakland. I’m really happy it’s a one-day event, on a Saturday, because I plan to drink lots of coffee on Sunday and get myself to my desk and absorb what I’ve learned. And then…all those ideas pin-balling inside my mind?

I’ll see what I can do with them.


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