Mile Marker


When I’m reading a book, reaching page 100 means that I’m invested in the story enough to continue reading.  There are times when I give a book 50 pages to keep me interested, and if it fails – and that could depend on mood, the writing, the story, storytelling devices…a whole shopping list of things that aren’t working for me – I list it as such and move on.

But when I’m writing a novel, page 100 is a definite mile marker on a much longer journey.

I reached that marker late yesterday.

In spite of the sweltering heat and lack of a cooling system in our current house, I managed to sit myself down to finish up one chapter in The Dark End of the Street and begin on the next.  When I looked up later in the day, I was surprised to see the progress made.

Within those first one hundred pages, I tend to have many epiphanies that guide the course of the story. I tend not to be a person who creates an outline for the first draft, but wait and see what surprises pop up during the progression of the writing.  In subsequent drafts, I have a better idea of what the story and sub-plots are, how the characters are going to develop, and can more easily and successfully plan accordingly.

One of the major changes that took place in this particular story is that the nationality of the main character is going to change.  Initially, I imagined it as a cultural exploration of a specific Italian family against the backdrop of a ravaged Detroit (post-economic depression).  As the story developed, however, I realized that it didn’t make sense to keep this character Italian, as the story didn’t seem to fit with that.  In spite of the great fun and tremendous admiration I have for Italian-Americans, it just wasn’t to be.  That, in turn, will reflect differently on the story being told, as each cultural group has its own mythology and superstitions, which I strive to blend into the fabric of the story.

Many times in writing, 100 pages seems an unattainable goal, especially when first starting out.  That has never been the case for me.  I tend to write more than I need and end up editing out much of that excess later.

What started out as – in my mind – a thriller, has become a creepy supernatural ghost story as well.   Though I don’t have a ritual for crossing these mile markers in writing, I do acknowledge them before moving on.  It seems to help keep that all-important momentum going.

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