Colouring in: a novel idea

The first novel I ever started has been a work in progress (at times very very slow progress) since September 2010. I am so close to finishing I can almost imagine what it will taste like.

I have a few scenes left to write, after which it will be somewhat finished. I won’t be ready to send it off to publishers. I will go through it again and make sure it is consistent, has everything I want. I will get someone, or several someones to edit it. But I will have it at that point of finishedness where I can say, ‘Here it is, a complete story.’ No more unwritten parts lurking in my mind.

So my job right now is akin to colouring in a picture. The novel is currently about 60,000 words and the plot is all there. So it is a big and glorious picture, with only a few blank spaces.


Writing fiction is not colouring in, filling gaps someone else has created. It is generative and imaginative. And every time I sit down and start to “fill in” a place where the narrative is broken and a gap contains only the note: “MORE HERE,” I create more than more.

Yesterday I was writing a scene where the protagonist goes with her family to visit her grandmother. So far, so safe. But the grandma. I was trying to write her as more than a cardboard cut-out grandma cliché. And I thought, here I am investing in this grandma character, she should come up somewhere else. She could help my protagonist with her relationships problems! BAM! Complexity.

Same thing happened today. I was writing a scene where the protagonist becomes better friends with her BFF’s BF. Except when he offered the protagonist a lift his sister was driving, and suddenly I’m writing a paragraph describing what the sister looks like. I don’t know why. She just turned up in my imagination, and she was stunning.

Again I thought, well, I’m not spending a whole paragraph describing some broad who has no relevance to the plot. (I’m not writing Eclipse here.) So I started to think about what relevance the sister could have. Obviously our protagonist has an instant girl crush. Maybe so does the BFF? And what about our antagonist? And so the complexity spins out once more.

I’m not colouring in. I start to colour in, and then I go outside the lines, and then I start drawing a new picture. And the new picture in what was previously unclaimed space means that parts of the page which were untouched are now also available to be filled. Will I not be finished until every inch of the page is covered?

Complexity is good. My main gripe with the novel has been it’s too basic, not enough plot, not interesting enough. A bit bland. Needs more dragons.

The problem is every time I create complexity I have to write it into the rest of the novel. So I don’t just have a list of unwritten scenes that I’m ticking off. I’m generating unwritten scenes at the same rate that I am filling in the old unwritten ones. In other words, I am creating more work for myself, and pushing the ‘finish’ date further away.

Oh well. I will just have to keep writing until I catch myself up.

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