Eureka moment, inspiration strikes. A new idea! Great excitement. Connections made in head, some scribbling in notebook. Floaty yet intense feeling, like being in love. Can’t think of anything else. Tingles up spine, gooseflesh, daydreams as the idea grows from little spark to fast-burning fire. Weird looks from people as novelist goes about muttering, laughing to herself on occasion.

Act 1, scene 1:
The big day has come. Screen opens on new document. Excited writing of title of book. Hey, it looks serious now, gone from bright idea to reality being born on the page, with its own name and all! Take a deep breath. Insert page break. Write ‘Chapter one.’ So much fizzing inside, it’s going to be easy. Write first line. Look at it. No. It’s no good. Delete. Write first line. Look at it. No. It’s no good. Delete. Write first line again. Aagh. No good. Delete. Try again. Panic. It can’t be done! Then remember old trick from childhood–pretend you’re Sheherazade and your life depends on telling a story straight off, without even thinking. Anything will do. And oddly, there it is, the first line, born with a rush and a yell, and from there on, the first chapter catches fire.

Act One, Scene 2:
First few chapters down. All flowing well. Characters doing what they’re meant to.  Novelist feeling on top of the world. This one’s so easy!

Lulled into a sense of false security..

Act 1 Scene 3:
About to reach the middle. Everything still going well, but is there a slight slow-down? Are the characters showing the first signs of rebellion, the prose beginning to lose its puff? Ignore all that. That happened last time. But nah, no way, it won’t happen this time. This one’s different.

Act 2 Scene I:
Disaster! You’ve hit a big patch of story swamp and there’s no way around it, you have to go through it to get to those smiling downs on the other side where everything will work. You grit your teeth and set of across the story-swamp. And then–fog rolls in, the plot vanishes from sight, characters scatter in all directions..and you’re stuck in the middle of the swamp and can’t go forwards or backwards. What to do?

Act 2 scene 2 :
Stuck in the mud and fog of the middle. Use any distraction to get mind off it. Hello Facebook. Twitter. Pointless surfing of any link that comes to hand, think of bidding on some useless thing on Ebay, watch endless You Tube clips. Get sick of the computer with its mocking opened screen and cursor flashing at an unfinished sentence like some will o the wisp in the swamp. Ring someone. Cook something. Even think in despair of cleaning the house. (Only think of it mind you.)

Act 2 Scene 3:
Imagination’s seven-league boots still heavy with middle-mud but now can suddenly see the way through. Happened without being aware of it, connections made sparked off by a random remark, a stray thought, a wisp of dream. At some deep level the brain had been working on it and that whole stuck-in-the-mud thing was a necessary part of taking stock and letting things run their natural course. Words flowing more freely now again, mud’s drying up, falling away, and as you leave the swamp and strike out into the rolling hills beyond, you’re energised again by the thought you actually do know your way through this country.

Act 3 scene 1 :
Heading into the lovely fertile country of the last part of the book. Everything seems to be falling into place. Getting even more exciting. The swamp is a distant memory. Swamp? What swamp?

Act 3 scene 2:
Having the best fun ever. Subplots to the left of me, sub-plots to the right, but no confusion, all the strands plaiting neatly into the glittering weave of the plot, the characters seem to be enjoying themselves every bit as much as their creator!

Act 3 scene 3:
The home stretch. Feels like mastering a fast four-in-hand, everything galloping satisfyingly to a close, all the elements working together, the finish post coming into view–and you’ve done it! You’ve done it!

Manuscript’s been emailed off to editor, who loves it. Champagne all round. I’m filled with a spine-tingling euphoria that makes me forget all the panic in the badlands of the middle. There’s the editing to go of course but that’s a whole other story. Right now, the play’s over, to thunderous applause.

But hey—guess what–I just got this brilliant idea..


About Sophie Masson

Sophie Masson has published more than fifty novels internationally since 1990, mainly for children and young adults. A bilingual French and English speaker, raised mostly in Australia, she has a master’s degree in French and English literature. Sophie's new e-book on authorship, By the Book: Tips of the Trade for Writers, is available at Australian Society of Authors.