No, seriously, though, it's kind of sad how overdue this blog post is. But you know what? I've had a lot going on! Trips to L.A., moving to another country, navigating a new job...
All in all, I'm giving myself a free pass on the whole "neglecting to blog" thing. Which is funny, considering I have tons of interesting things to blog about right now.
The picture above is me this past Saturday, from the top of Cerro San Cristobal in Santiago. I finally emerged from my hidey-hole and did something touristy. I had planned to spend the afternoon writing, but well, winter is coming (YES, I said it! Sometimes you need to just SAY IT in REAL LIFE, okay?) here in central Chile. It's going to start getting cooler and rainier, so I figured better safe than sorry. Better climb that hill while everything's still pretty.
(In fairness I only climbed the very last bit of it. The funicular did most of the work, and I was happy to let it).
(I also owe the internet a blog post about the Veronica Mars premiere, though I missed my window of when everyone would've been most excited about it... Whoops! Oh well.)
It's about the Scene of DOOOOOOM.
Much of my novelizing work over the past two months (when I could squeeze it in between all the moving, working, and reuniting with of old friends--you'll meet some of them later), was focused on completely reinventing the beginning of this novel. Beginnings are tough, and this one needed to be replaced almost entirely, so it's been a lot of hard work. And totally worth it.
In gutting the first draft, I needed to replace one key event and recreate it in the second:
One character-- let's call him Chris-- is a team leader, and needed to be crucially injured for plot purposes. Another character-- let's call her Mary-- needed a stronger opening for her character journey, which is, in part, learning to keep control of her power. In the first draft, Chris is injured in one of the scenes I cut and Mary's early character journey was really quite flimsy. So in outlining the new beginning I said, "Ooooh, how about we have Mary's lack of control be the cause of Chris's important-to-the-plot injury?"
Easy enough on paper, but trying to figure out how to pull this off-- scientifically (or at least sci-fi-tifically), geographically, keeping everybody in character, etc, etc--proved to be a monumental challenge.
I got help. I have one friend who lives in San Diego, where the scene takes place, and another who works in a trainyard, where I eventually set the confrontation. I could make this post all about how it takes a village to write a book, how you should find experts, ask your friends, make lots of friends who are Experts at Things so they can help you with the things you don't know (which is usually most of it). All of those are true and might make great blog posts some day, but that is not the lesson I want to showcase from this story.
It's about being in the trenches. Getting your teeth and your knuckles and your kneecaps all bloodied, bruised, and muddy.
There are times when I write a chapter or a scene or even a whole sequence that just seems to flow so easily from word to word, from paragraph to paragraph. The bits all fit together, I see the panorama, the characters are models of good behavior. These days are brilliant and wonderful and there are very few things that make me feel quite as good as they do.
Then there are days that aren't quite so splendid, but they're still tolerably okay. It might not be the most brilliant thing I've ever written, but there's a nugget or two. It took a couple of hours' quiet time but I got something down and I think I can make something out of it. This is most days of writing.
Then there are days when you Just. Cannot. Get it. Not with all the best intentions or hours of ruminations. When even the muses who live in your shower have abandoned you. When you have to pull that critical scene out of your fingertips word by painful word. When none of it is easy. When not one stroke of it feels inspired and the effort leaves you deject and drained.
I had the notion, for some reason, that having to work so hard for one measly scene meant I was somehow less of a "true writer". That it wasn't doing it right because the words weren't pouring off the pages in torrents, or even happy, modest streams.
The scene of DOOOOOOOM has taught me differently.
This is writing too.
It's done, by the way, the scene. And probably won't be anyone's favorite scene in the book, but finishing it felt like a big, enormous weight off my chest. The skies cleared up and I could see for miles.
Much like they did in Santiago two days later. Friday's rain settled some of the city's dust and smog and you could actually see the tops of the mighty, breathtaking Andes. So I took my triumphant mood and rode the funicular up to the top of the hill to see them.
Awww, real life imitated my art!!!
Until next time, when, hopefully, I'll have a whole manuscript giving me a happy sense of fulfillment, not just one bloody scene.