Sprints? Piece of cake. But marathons, not so much.
I’m good at short articles, blog posts, and flash fiction. It’s what I’ve been trained to do by four years of college English classes. “Write a short story no longer than five pages.” “Write a short poem using terminology from an unusual sport.” “Write a creative non-fiction story about a close friend or family member no longer than three pages.” See? I’m a trained sprinter! Writing a novel is making me exercise some muscles I didn’t know I had. Is it possible to get a brain cramp?
I’m discovering that maintaining a detailed believable plot for longer than a few hundred pages is giving me headaches. It’s not that I don’t know where the story is going; it’s that I’m not 100% sure how I want to get there. What threads should I follow, and how much detail do I need? It’s a set of skills I am still trying to develop.
I can tell you all the essential elements of a story, the common mistakes writers make, and the best techniques for developing plot. I have tons of head knowledge about this novel writing business.
But I haven’t done it myself yet. This is, after all, my first novel.
It’s one thing to read about and talk about Columbus. It’s quite another to be ol’ Chris, busting out the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. I’m venturing into the blank bits of the map, and as the ancient cartographers used to say, “Here be dragons.”