In my new favorite book on writing, Misery, King has his protagonist Paul Sheldon wake up out of a pain-riddled stupor screaming for a pencil. When Annie Wilkes comes running in, he scribbles down the plot point that is essential to making the new Misery Chastain book the best he has ever written, and he falls back, exhausted.
There’s so much going on in this scene. At this point in the book, Annie is Sheldon’s jailer and muse, and she terrorizes him but also, when she hears him bellow, she fears for him. But it’s also a look into the mind of a writer and how much of the process is out of our conscious control.
These plot revelations come when writers are deep into the writing process and they require a certain amount of acceptance. Some writers control every facet of their books and characters, but I can’t and won’t write that way. I wait for the serendipitous moment, when an idea hits that makes me understand the whole story. It can’t be forced and it can’t be expected. But it can be invited. How do you invite the writing epiphany?
- Write on a schedule.
- Commit to your story.
- Let your characters tell you who they are and listen to them.
- Read widely. Newspapers, magazines, nonfiction books — all of this is fodder for the writer. If you are a notetaking person, take notes, but otherwise, let it all mix together. You never know what you might need.
- If you are dreading a plot point because it means rewriting, then it means that you probably need to rewrite. Don’t try to work a plot into your existing framework.