Finding My Book, Or at Least the Entrance

I was just about to write a brand new sequel after six long years of silence since the first book ended. I sat at my desk, a blank notebook, a blank first page . . . and a blank mind. “Return to the School” just didn’t sound right for the title of Chapter One. What was Chapter One really about? What was it leading up to? I didn’t like to look too long at the chapters list I’d made, since it was kind of jumbled. I didn’t like to glance at the title I’d drawn on the inside cover of the notebook. The Magical Fair might not really be what the book is about! Was it rather childish for me to be writing in such a manner? In a notebook and making stuff up as I went along without a clear outline? I prayed that God would help me write this book.

My friend Rachel (and co-creator of the first book) asked me if I had started writing yet not long before. “Noooooooooooo,” I groaned in text. Rachel was disappointed. She couldn’t wait to read Chapter One. Her enthusiasm motivated me to get a’going on this project. “I’ll write Chapter One today, right after I eat dinner,” I thought. That was when I sat down, and the book just couldn’t be seen. “Chapter One,” I wrote at the top of the page. “Return to the School.” A thrill of excitement lit my eyes as I realized that a whole series of lively adventures was waiting to be explored. And then it died. It felt like a homework assignment I had to do lest I waste my time and not be productive.

The plot, in turn, showed itself to be very mushy and complicated in my isolated mind.What could be done to make it work? Sometimes I looked at it, and it looked downright plausible and good, and something I actually wanted to write. Other times, it was rift with unconnected major threads, tangents, unexplained phenomena, and a hard preachiness that wouldn’t lift. It even had a darkness to it. I didn’t want to go back there. I never wanted to go back to that school again. It was awful there! And I had no idea of how to overcome its greatest enemy.

A visit from a friend who gave me a book with a note to “Keep writing!” inside, a first-time attendance of a creative writers’ meetup on brainstorming, a 2-hour phone call with Rachel, and several series outlines later, I decided to just read more Enid Blyton for fun. “For fun! Think of that??” says the former English major student.

“If I have enough energy to read for fun, I should be figuring out this book instead!” I thought, still in that high-production college mode. “Chapter One . . . What’s its title?” Somehow, shortly before I started once more on this issue, something changed in me. Perhaps it was a flipping of emotions, perhaps some thinking too, but I realized that if I do not care about the people in this story, I will never write this story. Ever.

Why did I care about them? How did I care about them? Why should I care about them now? What is it about them that I love and would make me want to be with them again?

The plot points and character arcs (which are surprisingly more developed for two minor characters than the two main characters) were all in my head; I just needed to rework the chapter list and summaries for it to become clear.

“Forget all these writing workshops that I took! Forget all those social injustices in the book! Forget the ways that other people created their writing! Forget what other people thought about your characters! I will defend them and love them, even if they aren’t that nice!”

“There was a story in there that I wanted to write,” I thought. “And I’m going to find it, and write what I want to write: an exciting, fun adventure that I want to be a part of.”