Mind the Gap

gapWhen I consider it, and I have been considering it lately, all the books I’ve written that I thought worked had a gap in the writing process, somewhere a little more than half-way through. I am a “night driver” (Kit Kerr used this phrase recently, and my brain went **ping!** with recognition). I write what I can see ahead of me, and I generally know where I”m going, but the terrain between where I am and where I will be in another ten pages is often unseeable (in the same way that driving in the dark you can see what your headlights reveal and no more).

On this basis, I wonder if maybe I’m going to love the book I’m currently s/t/r/u/g/g/l/i/n/g/w/i/t/h writing. I have 13 solidly decent chapters. And I not only know where the book is going, I’ve written parts of the last two chapters. So I figure I’ve got five chapters in the middle that stubbornly are not revealing themselves to me. Disobliging to say the least.

As I said above, this is not a new experience. I went through it with The Stone War and Point of Honour and Petty Treason and The Sleeping Partner. That I don’t remember whether I went through it with Sold for Endless Rue doesn’t mean that I didn’t, but the structure on Rue was different and not so conducive to stopping cold midway through and saying “huh?” My brain has interesting ways of diverting me from applying analysis to my plot problems (the other night it went so far as to wake me up in the middle of the night, give me a title for the next book, and tell me how I could make use in it of some characters from the current book).

Obviously at some point I’m able to snap out of it and get through the book. I may even write a better book because of this irritating gap. But there has been, as far as I can discern, no specific thing that helps. I know this because I’ve tried all the techniques that worked before: retyping, mapping, making notes, free-association… if taking photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one would help, I’d get out my camera.

Right now I’m re-reading, looking for the breadcrumbs that writers leave for themselves all unaware. Nothing makes you feel smarter than realizing that That Thing You Tossed Off 38 pages ago is a linchpin for the plot. I’ve found a couple of small ones, and that’s encouraging. But on the basis of prior experience, I gotta say that when I finish this book I’m sure gonna love it.

Edited to Add: I was working today, chewing at what had to happen during that gap–which sent me back to Chapter 10, where I realized I’d gone chasing rabbits down the wrong valley. So I spent several hours making my way back to where I’d left the road, and wrote a new scene. I think it works better. I think it’s going to lead me farther into that unknown territory. It’s really exciting.


  1. Sorry you are having a tough time, but delighted that you are writing another book. I’ve been thinking that you might have one in the works, and will look forward to finding it in due time!

  2. Please, Madeleine, tell me that you are writing another Sarah Tolerance book. I have been in serious withdrawal for so long that I thought I would have to give up and accept that Sarah life in literature has ended. Say it ain’t so!

    • Hi, Becky:

      I’m working on it. I have the current half-done ST, and the basic idea for #5. After that… who knows?

      But it’s good to know you’re out there waiting for her. Excellent motivation!



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