I was hanging out at the park yesterday with friends, and my friend Deborah brought a chess set to teach us to play. I’ve never learned to play chess because it’s just too daunting. All of those pieces move in different ways, and you have to defend your king and capture the other king, and it seems like there are infinite moves, and I have no idea which one to make.
We played one game, and I thought I was cool because I got to say, “check” with my knight. Two moves later Deborah had checkmated my king. I never saw it coming.
Then she did something unexpected. She cleared the board and put only four pieces out there: my two rooks and king and her king. “Capture my king,” she said. I spent a while chasing it across the board before catching on that I needed to corner the king with my pieces. “You always have to have the end game in mind,” Deborah told me.
So it goes with writing. I made fitful starts and stops in fiction writing for years before finishing my first novel. I never was sure what move to make. Then one day I read a book about writing that suggested breaking down a novel that’s in the genre you like so as to understand its structure. So I did that, and it was like someone had cleared the chessboard and just put a couple of pieces on it. All of a sudden I could see how to get to the end. The complexity of seemingly infinite possibilities floated away and left a clear path, and I finished a novel. It wasn’t a great novel, but it was a finished novel, and that’s something.
I’m back to working on my NaNoWriMo novel. I have happy news: this time I’m writing good fiction. Usually I re-read what I’ve written and cringe, but not now. It’s very exciting. The end game is becoming clearer.
My word count is hovering just under 10,000, which is less than half of what it’s supposed to be to finish this month, but I don’t care. I’m writing again, and I’m writing better than ever, and that’s a satisfying feeling. When I finish, I’ll share a little with y’all.
By the way, thank you to all of you who read this blog. It means a lot to me that you’re interested in what I have to say.