Before I wrote “The Tin Box”, I didn’t have a clue as to how to go about writing a novel. I was under the impression that you started out with an idea of how it was going to go, you started writing and then you wrote until you got to the end . . . not so.
In real life, that’s how it’s done. You start out with a plan, you move forward, and you keep going until the end. But when you are writing, you can go back for do-overs. Imagine what it would be like if at 40 you could say, “Gee, it would have been good if I had gone to law school when I was 22.” and then you go back to being 22, go to law school, and change your present/future. Unfortunately, that isn’t the way life works. But when you are writing, it’s exactly how it works.
You’re writing a novel and you get to chapter 40 and say, “Gee, it would have been good if I had my character go to law school in Chapter 22.” and then you do go back to chapter 22 and send your character to law school. That one change sets a whole avalanche of changes in the following chapters. But that isn’t the only way novels are written in layers.
There are layers of depth in novels. There is a surface story, there is an underlying message to the story, there are themes and motifs, there may be elements of suspense and intrigue, there may be a back story, and there may be some history woven in to the story where historical research is necessary. All of these pieces come together as layers in a novel. You work on developing one and then go back and build in another, and another, and another.
Finally, the characters develop in layers. Their personalities evolve as the story is told and what was a simple character at the beginning of the story ends up being a multi-dimensional character by the end. An author has to go back and build those elements into the earlier development of the character so that the character can appear to be complex from the beginning.
When all the layers finally come together and the individual threads weave into a story, sometimes even the author is surprised by how it all turns out!