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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Driving at Night in the Fog

Driving at Night in the Fog

Car headlights

photo credit: Warten via photopin (license)

I’m writing this blog post to comfort myself more than to inform you, although I hope you might find it informative anyway … or maybe comforting. I’ve come to see this blog as the closest thing I have to a diary, and I often look back through old posts for inspiration.

Right now, I’m leaning heavily on E.L. Doctorow’s famous quote:  Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

It’s very dark and very foggy in my WIP right now, and I’m struggling. I keep inching forward, but it feels like my headlights are fading fast.

Here’s where my blog/diary comforts me. Looking back, I remember that:

  • Although I always knew who the villain was in The Caged Graves, I had no idea how to reveal this or what would happen in the climax. The answer came to me in the shower when I was ¾ of the way through the first draft – and it was nothing like I’d even imagined before. A complete change from where I thought I was going.
  • When I sent Jax and Evangeline to Mexico with the bad guys in The Eighth Day, I had no idea how to rescue them. None. The answer struck me while I was swimming laps in my pool, and it tied back to a little thing I’d put in the book for no good reason – except now it had a reason.
  • I knew exactly what I wanted to happen in the climax of The Morrigan’s Curse – for both POV characters – but I couldn’t figure out how to implement those climaxes without them getting in each other’s way and without interference from too many characters in one location. The answer presented itself during a long drive through the Pennsylvania mountains.

So what does this mean for my WIP? It means if I am patient, I’ll get there eventually. And maybe I should take a break from the computer. It’s raining right now – so the pool is out. I don’t have time to drive to the mountains, so I guess I’ll try a long, hot shower.

Inspiration, come and find me!


13 Responses to Driving at Night in the Fog

  1. salarsen says:

    Thanks for sharing those experiences. I’ve been very blah since my December (when things changed). This reminds me that I must continue to forge ahead. It’s just so dang hard at times. And if life would just take a break for a minute… LOL

    You’ve done it before, so you’ll do it again. Like you mentioned – think of it like walking in a hallway of your house in the pitch black. You know what’s around you, but you’ll need to trust in each step you take to get you to that light switch. (Holy, I have no idea if that even makes sense. Need more coffee this morning…)

  2. It’s fascinating to me that things really do come to us at such times. Good luck with the shower.

  3. The answer always comes when we least expect it.

  4. Yes, those experiences should give you the confidence to know you’ll figure it out. And your critique partners, editor, and agent are there to help too.

  5. Tiana Smith says:

    Man, have I been there. Way too many times. I hope the inspiration strikes and that you can work your way through, because your writing is amazing!

  6. J E Oneil says:

    That sounds like great advice. The answers will come, if you let them. Sometimes the headlights burn brighter than others.

  7. I’ve found in both my recent novels that if you let your characters act, they will come to an answer on their own.

  8. I know what you mean, even though I plot before writing; I wrote about this same sort of thing in that blog entry about my characters being smarter than me. ^_^ But I experience that in plotting too, and there’s always something amazing about figuring out how the story’s supposed to go and knowing that what you’ve just thought up is exactly what needs to happen.

  9. I think there might be a little dirt on my headlights right now, but that’s ok. I know where the Windex is. 🙂

    Do something unrelated to writing. Rearrange your silverware drawer. It will be while doing something odd that wonder will strike you. 🙂 Have faith. And then when you’re stocked up on faith, loan some to me, who’s in a similar predicament. And my silverware drawer is tired of seeing me.

  10. Hmmm, it sounds like water has a way of helping to wash the fog away for you, so maybe a nice long walk in the rain would do you some good. Especially if you have some rubber boots, so you can slosh through puddles with abandon.

    Inspiration likes to tap me on the shoulder in the middle of the night. I know. How rude, right? Used to be, I’d haul my weary bones out of the bed and start writing. Now, I pull the covers over my head and tell it to go away. Guess I’m not a very serious writer, eh? 🙂

  11. Hilary says:

    Hi Dianne … life is like that isn’t it – the answer suddenly turns up and certainly I think … oh yes that makes sense now … and we wonder and worry about things – but they either go away, or they get answered and sometimes in the most odd ways … yes showers, swimming – no!, walking in the rain … fine … thick fog – you’d think we weren’t on the south coast here … just fogged in (or out!) … cheers and thanks for your thoughts re my blog break .. and meeting Sharon was such fun … Hilary

  12. I usually have the exact same experiences – the answers appear as if by magic, usually after days of wrangling with all the options and coming up with no solutions. Patience seems key, but I hope you don’t have to wait too long 🙂

  13. Cynthia says:

    It’s a good analogy, although I find myself frequently backtracking to the beginning of my story when I write/revise. I probably shouldn’t do that while I’m driving, LOL!

    Yes, you will get there eventually, probably sooner than me!