I wake thinking of you. When I’m not with you, I resent the hours and the obligations that separate us. When I run or swim, I create a mental list of all the things I want to do when I’m alone with you again. Today while hiking, I had a sudden vision of our future that was so potent I stumbled, alarmed I wouldn’t get home in time share what so bewitched me. I cursed myself for having no means of reaching you when I needed you most.
There are anxious moments when you don’t seem real, pathetic moments when I fear you are beyond my grasp, vincible as I am to the sussurant black angel on my shoulder who fills my head with doubt. Are you really meant to be mine? Will you be fickle or fidèle? My work in progress. My story. My crush.
These first weeks of writing are as giddy as the early days of a new romance. Since that afternoon in the park overlooking Elliott Bay, cradling my Mac in my lap as I typed the opening paragraphs (chronicled here), I find myself aching to work. I’ve reined in the writing to spend time getting to know my characters, to begin exploring the scope of history and the details of the setting. I downloaded Scrivener – the best invention for writers since the thesaurus (or, you know, Wikipedia) and I’m slowly filling Scrivener folders with Setting Sketches, Research and Character Sketches. I just thought of a new character today – he’s what happened while I was hiking. I think I may have shouted aloud when it occurred to me who he was and how the story pivots on his motivations. I’ve started a Lexicon folder – words and phrases that relate to the eras and settings of the story. I’ve outlined Scenes for Chapter One, which may be one of the last chapters I write. I spent the better part of one evening deciding on a name for my female main character. And it will probably change.
I’m an early riser. 4:30 a.m. It’s my best time to run or unroll the yoga mat. It’s also the best time for unfettered writing. I have a book of writing prompts – one for each day of the year – and I spend fifteen or twenty minutes every morning scribbling free-hand in my notebook, writing without stopping to the prompt of the day. Well, I stop to sip my coffee. Nothing happens before there is coffee. But since starting the novel I have directed my morning practice to my story. I write as a character, I write with a specific setting in mind, I write to work out problems, I write to create problems I hope will further the plot. I write to figure out what the hell my plot is. Suddenly, I have ten pages. Barely legible, but still – ten pages that reveal my story when my mind is most open, not constrained by the logic of a scene or the confines of a paragraph. And each day this work grows.
I find that in the late afternoons and early evenings – after I return home from work, the pool, the grocery store, when the dinner dishes are clean and the laundry folded – I am too tired to craft sentences. It’s a good time to jot down scene ideas, to add to my character sketches, to muck around with research. Scrivener has a cork board function I’m crazy about. I can pin virtual notecards, insert, delete and rearrange them on my Chapter-Scene cork boards. I’m a visual writer, but I hate clutter. Having several cork boards tucked away within a binder within a program within my computer is a swarm of bees knees for me!
Scene/chapter writing is reserved, at least for now, for long stretches of quiet on the weekends, for hours spent in a cafe, a park or my favorite library branch. It’s an indulgence, a respite from the work of building a plot, since I still have so much background work to do. But writing out the meat of the story is a way to let my characters play, to learn how they walk, talk, what they eat, what they are thinking. I spent a couple of hours on Saturday taking a bath and drinking a bottle of wine with my girl, my heroine. Good, clean fun. We were both tired – it had been a long flight – and a long soak seemed like the thing to do. Oh, and there was a pivotal event just before she climbed into that steaming hot bath with a bottle of wine. But I can’t tell you WHAT. You’ll have to wait. And wait.
I write slowly. I’m a slow writer. It freaks me out that
80,000 78,000 words are in front of me. I know this first draft is supposed to be a brain dump, that should let it pour out, not edit, not fuss.
For the moment, I’m following my own rules. For as Dorianne Laux tells us,
There is so much about the process of writing that is mysterious to me, but this one thing I’ve found to be true: writing begets writing.