Day 21 in my novel-in-a-month effort:

Chapter 19.1: A Novelist Dodges a Bullet

No one is falling for this, the novelist thought. I mean, this noveling effort has included some missteps and false starts. But that last chapter – what a disaster!

He looked back at Chapter 5 – the State Fair chapter – to be sure his memory was accurate. And sure enough, there it was:

As the girls disappeared into the crowd, Sarah said, “Now, that worries me.”

“She seems like a good kid,” said Sam. “Are they all yours?”

“No,” Sarah exclaimed. “Just the one. We just finished a week with a pretend baby, so we both deserved a break.”

“And her papa?”

“Divorced. You?”

“The same. But no kids.”

“But no kids.” “BUT NO KIDS.” Arrrgh.

How could he have typed that, and sent it out to readers? What was he thinking? How could he have closed a door like that, so finally. How could he have made Sam Adams childless, and in such an unthinking way?

He remembered his Learning Annex classes on creative writing: Keep your options open. Don’t close any doors. If you’re going to kill a character – or keep one from being born – be absoluterly positive of what you’re doing. And at the very least, don’t share your pages with readers until the first draft is complete.

The bottle of seltzer sat on his desk. He found it calmed his stomach, especially late in the evenings when he wrote, or avoided writing. He took a large swig and turned back to read Chapter 19.

Ten minutes later, he felt at least somewhat relieved. Most readers, let’s face it, gave up reading long before Chapter 19. And Chapter 19 was long, like sleep inducing, hand me another martini long. Those who stayed are probably only reading sporadically, he thought, or skipping every other sentence. They may not notice that an eight year old child who did not exist in Chapter 5 has been created out of whole cloth in Chapter 19.

And what especially drove him nuts was that he should have spotted the need for that little girl. Was there a novelist or a reader in the cosmos who didn’t detect that the characters Sarah and Sam were being drawn together? But where was the common bond? Where was the signal flare that demonstrated Sam was not a troubled loner who monitored sleeping fax machines all day, but that he was a highly functioning and engaged adult, someone worthy of an attractive character’s fictive attentions? That sign would be sent through the little girl, one whose very existence was now delayed by poor planning.

Now, he saw, he was committed to a chapter he had not foreseen at the beginning. Sarah, Sam, Olive and Mia were going out to an art fair. What the hell was he going to do with THAT? He decided he really did have to start thinking before typing. Honestly. The readers would certainly appreciate it. And it would do wonders for his indigestion.

He took another deep draught of the seltzer, and considered his next steps.

First, he wasn’t sure what all should happen on the First Friday art walk.

Second, he thought the boat crash required at least a little follow through.

What to do, what to do?

The first step to deciding is to decide, he decided. And so he did.

He figured the readers would forgive his delaying an addendum that explains the fallout from the crash on the lake. Instead, like the hearty soul that he was, he opted to plunge directly into the art fair events. He would send those four characters into the swirling and whirling dervishes that comprised one of the largest monthly art gatherings in the United States, and he would see what befell them.

He hoped it would be interesting.

And then he began typing.

CHAPTER 20 is next.