What happens next?

I’m the kind of writer who leaves a lot to chance.

When I sit down to write a novel I think I have it all worked out from beginning to end – typically in the boldest strokes possible. If it helps, imagine a big thick highway divider. On the other side of that divider? A blank lane, and I simply sit quietly and wait until the cars go by to sketch in the details.

Here’s an example: I’m in the thick of writing the second True Born novel in the series. Narrative schematics float all over my office walls, covered in scotch tape and scribbles.

In the second novel my heroine will meet up with some people she thinks will help her, but ultimately will end up trying to do her harm. I had “already decided” this plot point, and I think this plot point will stay in the book.

But as I sat at my desk writing this scene through, some2014-09-13 14.54.55thing unusual happened, something unexpected. It may yet change everything for my heroine and her friends. I’m going to have to re-scribble all those plot charts to take this new information into consideration. In other words, when I wasn’t looking the story went ahead and wrote itself – and it wasn’t what I had anticipated.

I remember writing one particular story when I was sixteen or so. It came out of me in a torrent, as though I was in a fever, completely outside myself. When I looked up I had this remarkably strange story in hand, a story so completely outside my experience that I honestly didn’t know where it had come from.

What I’m driving at is this: like all art, writing is like owning one of those cars that will park – and maybe even take you to the store and back – without you needing to look up from the book you’re nearly finished reading (or writing). I’m saying that the creative process connects you to something more intelligent than your mind. That vital connection is where these stories come from in the first place.

When you give in to that intelligence you allow something remarkable to transpire: connections happen. True emotions waft through your pages. Your manuscript takes on dimensions you’d never even thought about.

This is true creativity, the thing that grips us readers and keeps us enthralled on the edge of our seats, waiting with bated breath to see what happens next.

“Only connect,” E.M. Forster famously penned in the epigraph to Howard’s End. He was definitely on to something.

Only connect. And then you arrive.

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