I’ve been traveling a lot – too much – this month, and in the bustle of airports in the ramp-up-to-holiday-travel season, I’m trying to remember that peace can be found in unexpected places. An iguana by the hot tub (seen on my last trip) was a good reminder!
My writing has slowed in weeks past. I knew it would come: the school year has begun again, and finding time has thus become more of a challenge. But I have been writing – I’m in the final third now, and for the first time I (think) I know what actually happens at the climax.
I’m not a true pantser – I outline, I have some sense of the story before I start writing – but I never know the story in full before the end of the first draft. In the case of this particular work, I always knew how things ended (or will end, since I’m not there yet), but I wasn’t sure of the events that made that ending possible. Now I think I do know all the major events – at least, the major events in the action plot. This feels good, and like significant progress.
But I still don’t know the events of what Cheryl Klein would call the emotional plot. Today, for instance, one of my characters threw a total emotional wrench in my MC’s plans (and mine too).
It was unexpected. It will require revisiting a lot of what happened earlier in the book when I revise. There are many downsides to this having happened.
But – honestly? – it’s also kinda awesome. I love this feeling of being surprised, when I write as much as when I read.
Last week I posted about reading (and enjoying) The Library at Mount Char. Author Scott Hawkins was kind enough to answer a few questions for me, providing (among other things) some thoughts on fantasy libraries, a recipe I can’t wait to try, and advice for librarians engaged in power struggles at work. Thanks for the great answers, Scott!
I think of it as fantasy, but ‘speculative fiction’ works too. I was a little surprised to see that some people think of it as ‘horror.’ I mean, that’s fine, think of it however you want, I just wasn’t expecting it. I knew that there were horror elements, of course, but I miscalculated the degree to which some people found them disturbing. I thought I had the horror dial turned up to maybe 5 or 6 out of 10, but based on the reactions it seems like it was more a 7 or 8.
A couple of years ago I stumbled upon this blog post. For those of you who don’t want to click through, the gist of it is that many novel-writers get stuck around the 30k word mark.
When I first read it, I was in the midst of writing my first novel. Or maybe I should say, figuring out how to write my first novel (I wound up rewriting it four times; I read the blog post partway through my second rewrite). 30k didn’t seem any worse (or any better) than the rest of it; and because I was doing so much rewriting I would have been hard-pressed to figure out when I was at this point anyway. I wondered if this was my “process” (ha ha) or if, once I was a little more experienced, I too would hit the 30k wall.
I’m currently writing my third book and second novel. I didn’t have any problems at 30k with my second book (which was non-fiction) but I have just, after several grueling weeks of little progress, made it past 30k with the third. I know a lot more about writing longer works now than I did with that first book. Is that why 30k gave me trouble this time? Or is this book simply different, and my relationship with it particular to its needs?
I recently finished debut author Scott Hawkins‘ book The Library at Mount Char, and I really enjoyed it. This wasn’t a surprise to me – everything I’d read about the book made me think I’d like it! – but I wasn’t expecting it to be funny.
My saying it’s funny probably reveals something about me, since a more obvious characteristic is that it’s terrifying (some have called it horror; see Cory Doctorow’s review, for instance). But I found a lot of dark humor in this book. I spent much of it laughing out loud while simultaneously gripping the binding, unable to put it down – a combination really hard to pull off, at least in my experience.
Whether you think it’s funny or not, The Library at Mount Char is definitely a page-turner. It’s perfect summer reading.
Earlier this summer, I wrote a piece for the New Mexico SCBWI’s 2nd annual “Enchantment” show – a collaborative project between writers and illustrators. I love the Enchantment concept – illustrators create an image inspired by the show theme, which is then assigned to a writer, who writes a (no more than 1-page) piece in response (this article describes last year’s show).
The 2015 theme was “Play.” I received my assigned illustration in May; after much wrestling, what came to the surface for me was a poem. I haven’t written poetry as anything other than a writing exercise for twenty years, so this was a little frightening. But the challenge of writing it, of polishing and revising to make it the best it could be, was exactly what I needed. It allowed me to get back into writing.
Here is my finished piece (gulp):
Along the Red Clay Road
Along the red clay road we go.
We gallop forward, we do not slow –
Our arms enlaced, with matching stride –
Our song, it will not be denied!
With a hey and a ho and a hey-nonny-no….
The sun is our companion, though
it is not constant; night does always follow
day. But through the dark we do abide
Along the red clay road.
Hey and a ho and a hey-nonny-no!
We’re crossing to the other side –
We’ll leave behind the tears we’ve cried –
They were so long ago
Before the red clay road.
The Enchantment show hangs from July 1 – 31 at the Los Griegos branch of the Albuquerque Public Library. If you are in the Albuquerque area, I highly recommend stopping by before it closes!