Somerset Maugham said, "There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." I've quoted this a hundred times, but I still have to remind myself of this home truth as I begin a new book.
Looking back on my bibliography, and recalling the process through which each book came to life, my memory seems to have been filtered through rose-colored glass. I look at one of my novels--The Terrorists of Irustan, for example--and it seems to me that it poured out of me, smoothly, surely, with nary a foot put wrong or a plot twist gone awry. I wrote every day, delivered it on time, revised to editorial request, celebrated a job well done, with never a moment of angst.
NOT. Beloved husband and beloved son remind me, with every book, that I always complain that it's hopeless, that it's a piece of trash no one will ever want to read, that it has all gone wrong. This usually happens at about p. 200, I believe. The rush of the original concept, the great fun of creating characters, the synopsis--which is much easier to write than the work itself--are all over. After p. 200, it has to work. And I agonize. I say to my family, "This one is different, worse!" and they say, "Heard that before."
I'm a little past p. 200 in the current work. I doubt my momentum. I question the central tension. I worry over structure. I ponder too many points of view, or not enough. The characters, bless them, have come to life in my mind, and now they won't change if I need them to. My antagonist fascinates me, as my bad guys so often do, but I'm fearful my protagonists are too good, too sweet, too honorable. I need subplots! I need voices! I need drama!
I'm quite sure this one is different. Worse. And I wish Maugham had figured out those damned rules.