The inmates have taken over the asylum, the inmates being the characters in my second India Hayes Mystery, which will be the sequel to Maid of Murder, and the asylum being my mind. As I work on this second novel (By-the-way, this is the second first draft. I scrapped the first three hundred pages. Sigh…) I find my characters are following me everywhere even when I would rather they’d leave me alone. In particular, they make their visitations when I’m without paper and pen, so I have to walk around muttering to myself to avoid forgetting some seemingly great idea. The other day, I found myself murmuring, “Zach eats tea cozies. Zach eats tea cozies.” As I was at work, I hoped I didn’t frighten any library patrons with this peculiar mantra. Zach is a dog in the book, and that’s all I will reveal about the plot.
Most of the time, I carry a notebook around with me as many writers do. In this notebook, I jot down thoughts and parts of dialogue as they hit me. If I don’t write them down, the characters will torment me until I do, so it’s better for everyone if I just spit it out on the page ASAP. The uber-organized librarian side of me is horrified by this notebook. The notes are not written in an orderly fashion. In fact, the words aren’t even on the lines or in complete sentences. The handwriting is atrocious, and the scrawl skitters in every direction. I showed the notebook to one of my fellow librarians almost as in a confessional as if to request her absolution for this jumbled disgrace of thoughts. She smiled encouragingly and so I like to believe absolution was granted.
The root of the problem is I don’t outline much when I write. Never have, not even when I was in school. When outlining was a required for an English class, I’d write the paper first and then create the outline. I apologize to any English teachers who are reading this and distressed by this admission. When I do outline, it’s usually out of desperation to avoid beating my head against my keyboard in dismay. In this respect, my outline is more of a coping mechanism than a plotting tool.
I wonder if more experienced authors with twenty plus published novels to their credit still experience this type of mental character invasion. Do they mutter to themselves? Do they find themselves in a daze because whole scenes are playing out over and over in their heads? Or does their writing appear on the screen in beautifully linear and logical prose? Probably, they have days where they are just as confused as I am. If the process of novel writing is just as aggravating and invasive for them, then I’m in good company. If not, please don’t tell me; I’m happy with my delusion.