Much has been written about the ‘terror of the blank page’ that writers face - - mostly, I have no doubt, by writers who are procrastinating from doing the real work of sketching out a first draft.
What does it mean, really? ‘Blank page’ is just shorthand for the middle acts of the plot, which is where most novelists get stalled. Me, anyway. Think about it. You have an idea for a story you want to tell about someone struggling to do something they have wanted to do for a long time, maybe get something they’ve longed for, maybe set something right. You know how it starts. You know there needs to be a crisis in the middle, where all seems to be lost. And there’s The End (whew), where everything works out. Romance novelists have shorthand names for this: HEA (Happily Ever After) and HFN (Happy For Now), even for heroines who haven’t really earned the right to either, TSTL (Too Stupid Too Live).
The tricky part is mapping out the scenes that connect the Beginning to the Middle and then The End. The characters need to walk through their lives, face their challenges, change, grow, earn that HEA at the end, or if they’ve made a hot mess of their lives, maybe they only get a HFN ending (think Rick and Louie at the end of Casablanca). The heroines in two of my books ended up marrying great guys. The others (my thrillers), they were headed for the nearest therapist’s couch.
I’ve worked hard the last year learning new ways to map out scenes that dovetail with character development while serving the storyline. Like learning to juggle. That way, every scene carries its own weight. Each one pulls together leading to the book’s (hopefully) inevitable conclusion.
I’m deep into the first draft of a thriller about the decades-old disappearance of a young mother on a snowy night, and the journey her now-grown daughter takes – physically, mentally and emotionally - - to find out what really happened.
That story is the second in a series set in the fictional seaside town of Charity Bay, where mysteries of the past are solved, friendships are forged, romance blossoms, and hope springs eternal.