I was lucky enough to catch some free hours today to work on a pivotal chapter in my current manuscript. The climactic scenes were roughly outlined in my mind and my muse fairly cooperative in my attempt.
After I finished the beginning I needed to run out for an errand, promising myself the drive might even let me think through a few additional details. I started on my way down the road and noticed an ongoing sense of anxiety in my belly. A tightness. What was this about? Then the ah ha moment hit. This feeling was residual to my scene. My teeth had been set on edge writing the conflict and tension in this chapter. I recognized the sensation from many times in my past as I’ve typed dialogue and interaction in moments of story and character conflict. And I smiled. It meant I was doing it right. Even though I as a writer mostly know the direction of my story and it’s no surprise to me, the fact that I have a visceral reaction to the tension as I write the words tells me I am building sufficient conflict into the book. It means I am feeling my characters’ internal battles and the threat they are experiencing. GO ME!
But it raised the question, how do other writers know they are hitting the mark as they type? Frequently I hear that no matter how many excellent novels a writer has under her belt, each new story raises insecurities about whether what has been written is up to the mark or even good enough. That each writer goes through moments of doubt. Is this just crap? Okay, I have those moments too. Plenty of them. But to catch myself succeeding, that’s a special joy.
The same can be asked of readers? What are moments as you read that you know you are engrossed in the magic? Not just a general acknowledgement of the strength of the characters or plot, but a direct sign that screams in your face that you’re reading a Kick-Butt novel.
Is it the clench in your belly, the out loud laughter, the tears streaming down your face? How do you know? I’d love to find out.