Those Tantalizing Twists and Turns

As I discussed in “The Menacing Blank Page,” starting a novel is daunting to most of us. Whether you do some pre-writing or go off the cuff, it can overwhelm you to contemplate how the few pieces of the plot will turn into at least a couple-inch-thick book. Speaking for myself, I have doubts I’ll get there until I’ve almost made it.

astronaut-4106766_640Not long into writing my first manuscript, I discovered how quickly you can pen those beginning elements—and I can only type with one hand! Once I reached that point, I felt like an astronaut whose ship had landed on a foreign planet, and now I was on my own with nothing to do but explore the vast, unknown space. I knew my general destination, but everything in between was dense darkness.

In an effort not to get discouraged prematurely, I didn’t look up the minimum word count of a novel for a long time. I was sure it had to be at least 25,000, though. Thus, I started to construct a plot twist here and there. I didn’t want to take the story too far off the beaten path and doom my ending, but I tried to create things that would surprise readers, develop the plot well, and of course, reach a sufficient word count—which ended up being about double my inexperienced estimate.

Twists and turns were just a means to those ends until I started writing mysteries. Then, I gleaned such joy from making up red herrings and occurrences I hoped nobody would predict. Admittedly, I’ve always been more of a fan of watching mysteries than I am reading them, so I loved the sensation of spinning that camera and spotlight from one suspect to the next. I could almost hear the gasps and see the wide-eyed expressions from my readers, even as I typed alone in my den.

To this day, that’s why I love to write in that genre. During a recent self-edit I did on my second sleuth novel, however, I realized I’d gone a bit too far with my beloved twists and turns. Some of the red herrings and progressions were too elaborate and overshadowed the rest of the story. The gasps of astonishment I once anticipated from future readers became cries of confusion.

Truth be told, I’d prioritized my story’s word count over its quality. Throughout the years, I’ve had to lengthen it, making me add to the mind games it already offered. They weren’t all bad, but a few needed smoothening out so as to not make a reader dizzy and exasperated.

How did I know what needed reworked? I put myself in a reader’s seat, like I often suggest in my blogs. Instead of focusing on word count or keeping people guessing, I thought of how each part would interest them and what it added to the storyline. Would it intrigue or distract? Would it make someone want to continue reading or throw the book down in disgust?

Always remember you’re taking your reader on a voyage. Depending on what genre you write in and the audience it draws, you’ll take them in various directions and at different speeds, maybe even hit a bump or two. We can’t take our passengers’ enjoyment for granted, though, by jarring them needlessly for the sake of word count or our own amusement. No one enjoys getting seasick! Rather, give them a pleasant journey through the world you’ve created that they’ll want to take time and again.


One thought on “Those Tantalizing Twists and Turns

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s