Friday, January 15, 2010

Of maps and muses

I really should get up and turn on the light, but the cat is curled up behind the screen, peacefully sleeping on my legs. It's almost 5pm, there's still a bit of light left in the sky.

I have run into a wall of procrastination with editing my novel. Without the looming spectre of a ridiculous deadline it's hard to get any momentum going. Editing is a slow, deliberate process, unlike writing, which frequently happened in frenzied bursts in which characters drove the plot according to their own needs and desires.

They aren't as communicative right now, although brief moments of inspiration have appeared here and there, leaving a paper trail through morning pages, pocket notebook, virtual and real posty-notes, day planner and a scrap of baking parchment.

I'm breaking this down into smaller chunks this weekend. Step one, assemble the cast of characters: names, appearance, family, traits, and so on. Hopefully this will clear up glitches; the other day I noticed two characters had the same name.

Step two-map out the timeline of the story. It's rather muddled at this point. No wonder one character's age keeps fluctuating; he's as lost as I am.

Starting with plot and character outlines would have been sensible. That would have required starting with a plot, something I didn't have when I decided to do NaNoWriMo. I started with only a couple of characters who'd been trapped in my head for years, and a muddled thought process sparked by a friend's remark when I had a close encounter with an elk at the Estes Park Visitors Center. I signed up only a few days before the event began, and while I knew about outlines and plotting with posty-notes and string, I chose not to do that. If I had, I would have gotten so obsessed with organizing and reorganizing and color coding that I wouldn't have written a word.

I dove into the novel in true free writing style: just keep going and see where it takes you. The characters appeared, doing their own thing, driving the story, and sometimes going off in rather alarming directions. The plot started taking shape at about 30,000 words in. I finally saw where it was headed and was able to make an outline.

There's still so much I don't know about this world I created. Like..what it's called. Or how swords and sorcery coexist with high tech gadgets and high speed hovercrafts. Hopefully that will all clear up somewhere in the process.

I intend to have a readable version in time for the Createspace deadline for a free printed book. That's June. So, logically, working backward, break the task down into small manageable goals and proceed in an orderly direction. Somehow, I doubt that's how it's going to go. The process will likely be messy and chaotic, passionate bursts of creativity alternating with the slow plodding of mapping the trail and filling in plot holes.

I have two tasks for this weekend, but somehow I am struck with the need to do other things, any things, rather than recommit to this work. I think I am having to give up that fantasy about what being a writer is, the fantasy that one sits down and magnificent words roll out, all ready to be published into a prizewinning novel. No. That's not what being a writer is. Being a writer means showing up at the page and doing the work, for the sake of the work.

I read the following this morning here; it's worth posting somewhere I'll see it everyday.
"I was here. Where were you? signed, your Muse".


mollie said...

I look forward to the finished product.

Jenn said...

The process will likely be messy and chaotic, passionate bursts of creativity alternating with the slow plodding of mapping the trail and filling in plot holes

And even after editing 3 times this might still be the truth. That is what is scaring me the most right now. I'm doing so much filling in of holes and addition of sensory experiences that even my dialogue is being almost completely rewritten.

Once you get the timeline in place and a semi structured outline the content you've got will fall into place, characters will flush out and new and exciting stuff will emerge! You are a writer, trust that!