“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.” ― E.L. Doctorow
I came across this quote today, and thought it quite aptly described what I’m going through with this Neeka story that’s become my Tuesday obsession.
Then I thought the quote would work better if I added the word “sometimes” to it —
“Sometimes, writing is like driving at night in the fog…”
Because for my Finding Dragons novel, I have the whole story outlined. I know what needs to happen in each chapter, and I feel like I have a good grasp on all the whos, whats, wheres, hows, and whys. I have a goal in sight — it might be on the far, far distant horizon, and it sometimes feels like I’m in a Monty Python sketch as I get further from the goal and not closer — but I know what I want to say and, maybe more importantly, why I want to say it.
Not so much with the Neeka story though, which doesn’t even have a working title yet — all I have is a protagonist and some not-quite-connected scenes in which she can’t seem to catch a break. I have a vaguely cyberpunk setting, a world where orks and elves coexist alongside humans, and corporation-run dystopian future.
So I’m still in the fog here.
I know where the idea originally came from — a friend of mine showed me a cool UAV racing video that I couldn’t stop thinking about.
(In my preliminary research, I discovered that UAV, quad/quadcopter, or multi/multicopter are the terms UAV racers prefer, instead of “drone,” which is not only not correct, but has all sorts of negative connotations. However, they also accept that it’s the layman’s term for their hobby.)
So then I borrowed heavily from the video when I wrote the first bit of this story, which you can find as my latest Discover Challenge post from yesterday. Here’s a different DRL (Drone Racing League) introductory video, well worth a minute of your time:
The racing scene I’d written was unfinished when I picked it up again yesterday, and originally I had expected Neeka to win — she’s the protagonist and an elite pilot, after all. But it wasn’t until I was writing about the sudden backtrack at the end of the race, sending them to the finish line on the first floor, that I realized she was about to be confronted with yet another stroke of bad luck.
Even though it’s not my usual style of writing — I’d definitely call myself a plotter, not a pantser — I find I’m enjoying the way I’m discovering this story step by step, walking an unknown path that’s only being revealed to me one scene at a time.
And while I write this tonight, I realize that the quote above still applies to plotters too — no “sometimes” about it.
I’m not that far into the first draft of my novel; I’ve been stalled out for weeks, even though I have an outline and “know” what I need to write next. I even had a plan to write a chapter every two weeks, a plan I’ve since given up as a bad job, at least for now.
Because not only is writing an unplotted story like driving through a fog where you constantly discover things as you go and eventually make it to the ending — my entire writer’s journey is like that. I expected one thing to happen (brisk, orderly progress on the novel) and found a roadblock. So then I took a detour into this Neeka story, and now I’m enjoying the scenic route.
But I can still see the main road, over there through the fog… I can just make out Azur and Kite and Pipet and Wren beckoning me over to continue their story, where despite me “knowing” everything, I’m sure they’ll still wind up doing things that surprise me as I write.
And I find I’m looking forward to my flight through the fog.