I said early on that I might occasionally do a post about the process of writing Dogged by the Curse, to help those of you who want to try writing something challenging like this. And since I'm temporarily stuck, I decided this was a good time to bring you all up-to-speed.
Writers -- whether they write poetry or prose -- often debate whether to outline or write by the seat of their pants. Actually, I'm not sure there's really a difference. In both cases you have to figure out what events happen and in what order they happen.
The advantage of an outline is that you have a roadmap to guide you in your writing. The disadvantage is that outlining isn't the same thing as writing. Since you're not in the flow of inspiration, you often miss key events or relationships. An outline is just a list, after all, and not likely to get the creative juices flowing the same way.
The advantage of writing by the seat of your pants is that flow I just mentioned. When you just "follow the muse" you come up with things you'd never come up with by making an outline. The disadvantage? Mistakes are costlier. You can end up having to rewrite a major portion of your work because you discover a better way to do things.
I've written both ways. With Dogged by the Curse I'm doing a little of both. I have a very sparse outline to give me direction but I'm counting on the flow to help me work out the actual events that happen. I think this is how the pulp writers of the past created their stories, and this is the Pulp Poet Project, after all. The good thing is that the flow has made me think long and hard about "what happens next" in a way that outlining just doesn't do.
But it's not a perfect process, and that's where I am this week.
While writing in the flow of the story I realized that I needed an extra event in the story to make it logical. The good news is that I know what that event is -- installment #22 is a scene between Father Benedict and Constable Aiden Garrett (you may remember him from the initial investigation mentioned way back in installment #3). I also know that #22 concerns Garrett bringing Benedict up-to-speed on his investigation, about how the wolf isn't a normal wolf (in #3 the bites weren't normal wolf bites) and how conspicuous it is that only known felons are being targeted. This scene is necessary to launch Benedict off into the direction I originally planned for him to go.
The problem is, although I know what has to be in the scene, I'm not sure how to structure it. The problem presented itself pretty quickly -- a mere three lines into this installment, when I sent Benedict to Garrett's office and realized I didn't know what Garrett was doing. Is he doing paperwork? (Somehow I have trouble believing paperwork is a big concern in Vaxen.) Is he searching the woods for the wolf? (Then how does Benedict even find him? I've already established that the killings are happening off the beaten paths of Vaxen.) As you can see, although I know the thrust of this scene, I'm not even sure where it should happen.
So that's why there's no Dogged by the Curse 22 post this week. It's not a case of not knowing where to go, but a case of not knowing how best to get there. I need a little more time to figure that out. All writers run into this problem at times... but many don't tell you about it because it takes a bit of the shine off the writer's "aura."
But I'm telling you about it so you'll know. If it happens to you, you're not a bad poet. It's just the normal way of things, so don't get discouraged.