Clear Like Ice: When Plot Crystallizes

Hiker_IciclesThere comes a point in the writing process when things become insanely clear. Granted, the words and sentences might be muddled. The manuscript itself may remain half a dozen revisions away from anything even resembling clarity. But don’t let those minor details distract you. There is something that happens toward the end of writing a novel that I’ve decided to call a PLOT ICICLE.

A plot icicle is gorgeous. Let me explain how it works.

It needs a supporting structure. This is the original outline you crafted at the beginning of the writing process. Without the structure, there is no icicle. But don’t be alarmed when the plot starts dripping away from your outline. This is the beginning of the plot icicle.

There is a melting and refreezing process. Writing a novel isn’t easy. Your brain will melt and refreeze repeatedly. It’s okay… something beautiful is growing. You’ll see.

It gets bigger with time and emotion. Robert Frost famously said, “no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” The more you put into your novel, the larger a plot icicle grows.

It becomes sharp. During icicle formation, water drips down the existing icicle and gathers at the tip, rounding off until it freezes. But when the water stops dripping and freezes solid, it becomes deadly sharp. Every writer who has that “a-ha” moment about their plot has experienced this. A sharp, piercing sense that the plot has come of age.

It is crystal clear. Again, ignore the messy draft. You can fix those details in the revision. But when a plot icicle happens, step back to marvel at the beauty of it. You know what’s going to happen. Just you. It is your novel, your outline, your characters. Your time. Your tears. Your research. Your joy and heartache, crystallized and shiny. Savor the moment.

It will break off. God willing, you will eventually finish that novel. Then comes the revision process. This is like breaking all the icicles off a house and seeing which ones shatter into splinters and which ones stay whole. Get ready for it. Brace yourself. If you can write a whole novel, you can certainly handle a revision or two… or twelve.

Don’t even get me started on the querying process. That’s like summer in Death Valley.

For now, just enjoy the icicle. It is beautiful, rare, and transient.

(Disclaimer: There is a minor possibility that a monster early-season ice storm contributed to the ideas in this post.)

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  1. #1 by Larry Who on December 10, 2013 - 5:09 am

    Do you really write from an outline? Do you know where you story is heading at the beginning of your writing?

    • #2 by annaldavis on December 10, 2013 - 5:35 pm

      Outline is a loose term, I guess. I usually know the major plot points early in the writing process. But I certainly don’t outline every little scene. Discovering what a character will do next is part of the adventure for me. What about you?

      • #3 by Larry Who on December 10, 2013 - 10:02 pm

        Now that I think about it, my writing style is probably not teachable. I start with a title, sort of a theme, and an idea for a first sentence. Then, I write the scene. This pattern continues throughout the whole novel, teaching, or whatever. When I don’t have a first sentence, I wait until I get one. Some of my writings have sat on the shelf, waiting for months and even years until I have an idea for a first sentence for the next scene.

        I know this sounds ridiculous, but the extra time has allowed me to learn how to write better and also I am a plodder, not a thoroughbred like you.

        • #4 by annaldavis on December 11, 2013 - 4:54 pm

          I love your writing, Larry. Keep up with your current method.. it works. And you make me laugh with the thoroughbred comment. Writing is my therapy these days, if that tells you anything.

          On another note, I’m hoping to have a finished MSS very soon. Would be honored if you’d take a look at it for me, even in it’s messiness.

        • #5 by Larry Who on December 11, 2013 - 7:20 pm

          I would love to look it over and I am finishing up a memoir. I would love to have you look it over. It’s PG-13 and no sex scenes.

          • #6 by annaldavis on December 12, 2013 - 2:33 pm

            *whew* I was worried for a minute there! :-)
            Please do send your memoir when you’re ready. For the next week, I’ll be in the writing cave. But after that I’ll have lots of time.

  2. #7 by memyselfandkids.com on December 10, 2013 - 1:58 pm

    I really like the term and the way you built on the metaphor. One thing I have also found is that as the story comes along, it takes on a certain momentum – almost a life of it’s own.

    • #8 by annaldavis on December 10, 2013 - 5:38 pm

      You’re right… it does take on momentum. I love that part!! There’s a ethereal quality to it that I just can’t capture plainly. Metaphor is the closest I can get. Plus there are an abundance of icicles where I live right now, so it just seemed to fit. :-) Thanks for commenting!

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