I’m slowly picking my way past the always-exciting Pivotal Mid-Book Catalyst Scene…always exciting, that is, because I’m always excited when I get there, not necessarily because the scene itself is full of excitement. I have one of these in every book I’ve written: somewhere in the darkest thicket of The Dreaded Middle is a moment, usually a moderately small one, that marks some emotional turning point for my MC. It always looks small, comparatively speaking: it’s not a major plot moment, or a big reveal. It’s just a slight mental shift, of loyalties, priorities, or whatever glue is currently holding my characters together. Barely noticeable, on a story-arc scale, and yet it’s also the catalyst for the climax of the book. Reading back through once the first draft is done, it will hardly be recognizable as such, and yet I always know when I hit it… because suddenly everything from here to THE END is clear as day.
That clarity is hard to hold onto once I push past this moment, because nothing about this process is easy –but oh man, what a feeling. Like finally finding the light switch in a dark room you’ve been wandering around in, and realizing you’re in the house you grew up in. I love hitting that mark. And I just did last week, and it was slightly less subtle than usual; in fact, it was beautifully purple (ha, you see what I did there?). And of course there’s a minefield immediately on the other side of that moment, as I try to gather all these messy emotional arcs and subplots into one tidy fistful for half a chapter or so, and here I am. Happy, and cautious. Becoming aware of themes that have been there all along, and tiny subplots that seemed like randomness, and are turning out to be major triggers hiding in the warp and weft of this thing. I have to struggle not to go back the beginning right now and draw these things out the way they deserve; my first pass will be all about that, but I don’t want to wait. I’m filling up a Notes file with all sorts of craziness like DON’T FORGET TO HAVE CHARACTER X SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THE EXPLODING COFFEE MAKER IN THE OUTAGE SCENE and MAKE SURE TO ADD IM ABOUT HOW MUCH SHE HATES HER DAD SO IT MAKES MORE SENSE. (I can only hope these will makes sense when I get back to them.)
Lovely moment. I live for these; or I guess it would be more accurate to say I write for them. There are a few more coming up, as I wend my way toward the end of the book. There’s also a lot of WTF am I doing? and where did that come from? and wow, I can’t believe I wrote this crap in my immediate future, of course, but moments like these make it all worth it.
So tell: what novel-writing moments make it all worth it for you?