Suffering Structure: My Struggle with Long Lines of Suspense

Do you enjoy pain? You must. Investing so much time in a piece of writing–why work to the point that you start questioning yourself? Then you wonder not only if you enjoy the feel of flogging yourself, but also if anyone wants to read the story you’ve been writing for years. And yes, having this thought means you are sabotaging yourself, but on the other hand, weighing your choices makes sense, so you aren’t sure if you are being self-deprecating or level-headed.

This isn’t how you the reader think. Or, maybe it is.

But it’s what I think, only sometimes, especially now that I am enhancing long lines of suspense in my manuscript.

That’s right. I am talking about plot, and I hate straight chronological structure. But I think that’s what my manuscript needs right now. My mosaic structure isn’t carrying the suspense forward the way I think it ought to.

Previously, I was scared to gather up the events in my narrative, little beads of experience, and string them together along time. These are risks I meant to take ten years ago, but I was busy being fragile. Being fragile takes a lot of time and energy, reader!

As I outline my manuscript, study chronology, and work on a backwards outline, I do so unwillingly. Linear structure has never been my passion. Structure, for me, is the hardest part.

By Chris Brown from Melbourne, Australia – I ♡ Chaos, CC BY 2.0Wikimedia Commons

I am messy. I like clutter. I leave piles of my things in corners of my house, because one day I’ll come back to it. Right? One day, I’ll come back to structure.

Now is the time. While I re-organize my manuscript across time, it feels like I am participating in a perpetual pulling-up-of-my-pants, a reckoning I feared attempting before. Who wants to major in creative writing only to realize she can’t map out a story to save her freaking life? Sheesh.

Despite all my bellyaching, as I rework this manuscript in terms of time instead of theme, I become more confident that the protagonist’s desire could carry a reader across a couple hundred pages. I have also started feeling this weird emotion. I think it’s called validation? Is this what validation feels like?

I wasn’t expecting to have positive feelings about my own work. It’s kind of gooey.

Will I finish clearing out piles of junk from the corners of my house? Will I finish plotting this story across time? Probably. Whether I finish or not, as I write, I change the way I see my narrative, and the continual re-seeing changes my interpretation.  



Changing the way I see a narrative is painful because it takes a lot of work, and it feels like a kind of suffering. I suffer when I make art because it feels never-ending, and then my self-doubt creeps in along with a spiral of sabotaging thoughts. But that’s okay for now, because despite the pain, I am starting to trust that suffering for my art leads me somewhere new. 





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