When in Doubt, Throw in a Flying Monkey . . . or Three!

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here.

Right before Christmas Day I swore that I would finish edits to Mystic Storm so I could send it to my first readers. This book really challenged my resolve. Unlike my other books, it’s taken me all year (on and off) to complete the story.

Part of the problem - I knew the story was missing something. I wasn’t exactly sure what was missing or how it should be fixed. Silly me, instead of following my own tried and true advice – keep going and look back later – I stopped.

Then I was snared, snarled, in a quagmire – take your pick. I was stuck. I even wrote another entire novel (Misfortune Cookie) under the belief that time would solve the problem. You know, a little perspective and time apart and the solution would present itself.

Well. . . no. That didn’t work.

Instead, I had to suck it up and finish, word by gruelling word. Because, by golly, I was finishing Zephyr’s book in 2012. So there.

As a result, this year, I skipped NaNo and finished the first draft. Finally. Problem solved right?

Again. No. The something was still missing. Not a big something, but a more subtle element was needed earlier in the story. By this time, as you can imagine, I was really, really sick of Mystic Storm. Zephyr and I were barely on speaking terms at this point.

What’s a writer to do?

Throw in the flying monkeys. In my case, I did that – literally. Sorry, you’ll have to wait for the actual book to find out how.

The point here is this – conflict is king. If you don’t have it, you don’t have anything. I had clearly defined goals and motivation (internal and external) and I had some conflictsflying monkeys but I needed more of the right kind of conflict. The kind that moves the story along. Never, never throw in a flying monkey (or whatever conflict you choose) just because. It has to serve a purpose or your reader will know you are padding your word count.

Once I solved the “Case of the Missing Something”, I made those edits and now the book is in the hands of my trusted first readers (who are actual readers and not writers). If it passes their reader instincts then I know I’m good to move onto the next stage – more edits!

Whew!

Who knew that some flying monkeys could bring my hero and heroine closer together. Funny how life works isn’t it?

Fellow writers, how do you solve for the missing something?

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9 thoughts on “When in Doubt, Throw in a Flying Monkey . . . or Three!”

  1. Flying Monkeys–I like it! I think the two most basic elements of any book are character and conflict. Once you have those things in place, the plot and the subtleties can grow from there. Can’t wait to read Mystic Storm!

  2. Oh, I’ve been waiting for this one. So excited you’ve completed it. I was having the same problem with the third book in my Jake Carrington Series. I had originally planned it as the second and wrote with that in mind. Then Burn in Hell popped into my head and I had to write it. Well, long story short, I had to go back and re write everything in Mated for Life I wrote before; because the first chapters were taken care of in the second book.. So confusing, I know. Now I’m on the path and completing the book. Phew! Never thought I’d get there. SO glad you did, cause I want (need ) to read Mystic Storm!

    1. Thanks Marian! No pressure or anything, right? Now it’s onto Devlin’s story (which hopefully won’t take a million years to finish). I can’t wait to read Burn in Hell. My reward for finishing Mystic Storm is reading If I Fail – totally loving it – nice job :)!

  3. I know Mystic Storm is going to be great because you are an excellent writer and story teller, Casey. Your attention to detail and ability to show your character’s growth through conflict are some of your greatest strengths.

    I don’t know if this happens to every writer, but there comes a time in all of my books when words are going on the page, but nothing is happening. I call it the sagging middle because it seems to come along around the time that something major has to happen to create that “no turning back” moment. Jessica Andersen once told me that’s usually the time that her characters kiss/have sex, or blow something up. I totally agree that you don’t want to throw road blocks in just to have something happen. Everything has to have a purpose and drive the story forward, but when you’re feeling stuck, it usually means that you need a worthy turning point for your character. If flying monkeys offer your characters an opportunity to learn something and grow, then by all means, throw them in. I bet it’s going to make for some entertaining reading!

    1. Thanks for the praise Paula! I sure didn’t feel like I had any skill at all writing the book (thank you Doubt Monster). When Kristan came to the library she mentioned something similar about sagging middles. In her case, she said, she knows there’s a problem when she started talking about kidney transplants!

  4. Looking forward to reading Mystic Storm. I’ve already brought into your characters. Misfortune Cookie sounds like a fun read. You are so cleaver and creative I’m sure that book is going to be a hit, too.

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