Stories and books can have a figuring it out stage for me, a point – or, sometimes, several points – where I haven’t quite figured out how to proceed with some important piece of the work in progress. In some cases, if the problem is plot, it can feel like I’ve painted myself into a corner.
When I get into that space–this generally happens at least once with every short story and several times with longer works–I do a lot of walking and thinking, as well as a certain amount of sitting around in the hot tub at my condominium, dictating my scattered thoughts thoughts into portable devices of some kind. It’s how this particular blog entry is getting written: with a phone dictation program as I bob among the bubbles. Truly, we should all have such problems.
My inner supervisor is never terribly impressed with this. Wondering around taking photos will always feel like lollygagging, and as for hot, luxurious soaks with a blurry view of the CN Tower? Well, that’s just decadent. Where do you get off having a hot tub anyway, it asks, who do you think you are? Go do some real work!
It never seems to cut ice with that particular slice of my brain to argue that it always works out; the faffing about and distraction do whatever they’re supposed to do, the answer comes, the story gets finished. And I hear variations on this theme from other writers: they get to the bashing the head against the wall phase and it’s strangely painful. For some of us, it can feel new every single time. Each time, we wonder if it really truly is some kind of brain breakage, or writerfail. Have we lost the old magic?
Fortunately for me, the lure of a good walk and the siren song of a bubbling tub are just plain louder than the internalized screechy voice that seems to think the answer will come if I sit at the keyboard until I bleed from the eyes. And I can look at pieces where I remember being momentarily mired. I scrapped “Wild Things” in its entirety and began again from scratch, with a very different voice and point of view, and it became something wonderful and surprising.
What do you do when you are stuck?
Monday night: I am parked on the bed, tip-tapping away, with both cats lounging beside me as Kelly writes in the next room. It was a cool and sometimes blustery day, but now the sky has cleared and the evening light is pleasantly mellow. Our birch trees are putting out teeny tiny leaves. I love the spotted crepe-y look of birch trunks; I missed them when we moved away from Northern Alberta when I was eleven or so. I associate the look of them, somehow, with contentment.
We were at Ad Astra all weekend, seeing people and talking books, so today I mostly worked through a logjam of teaching tasks, as well as figuring out out the plotty heart of one of the three novel concepts I’m incubating. I am calling these concepts the stork babies, since some species of stork hatch multiple offspring, who then duke it out in a rather grisly game of survivor, the stronger voting the weaker out of the nest, kersplat, until only one remains. If I ever wrote a book called Things I learned from David Attenborough, there would definitely be a bird chapter entitled “Nature’s Most Beautiful Assholes.”
The storks’ current working titles, in birth order, are Tom the Liar, Glory Days, and Magic Fairy Sparkle Princess. I expect all of these titles to change no matter who outwits, outlasts and outwrites.
I am also pleased because I’ve realized the Poldark series is finally available via my preferred media vendor. We’ve been waiting for this to happen for months! Now if only iTunes Canada would unlock Grantchester S2…
As it says: I am not doing Nanowrimo this year; I have books to rewrite, and stories on the go. There’s no discrete 50K chunk of wordage I need to generate, and so many things to finish.
The finishing is pleasant, though I do love the mad plunge through a draft. And the November part of Nanowrimo usually appeals to me. I sometimes struggle to get writing done after Halloween, and having a huge deadline and braggable goal has sorted that challenge rather handily for me in the past.
What I am doing, now that the Child of a Hidden Sea* copy-edits are on their way back to New York, is skimming through book two, currently titled Daughter of No Nation, as preparation for buckling down to really polishing number three, Nature of a Pirate. I am also considering what I may set as my 2014 writing goals: what I want to do, and what I need to do. Glancing up from the project at hand, in other words, to look at the work and career as a whole. If there’s a short story you wish I’d tackle, or a universe you want me to return to, now might be the time to put in a request.
*Yes, the book’s already available in ebookstores for pre-order, even though its release date is June. The above link is for Amazon – here’s Chapters Indigo. Cool, huh?
My latest Buffy rewatch ends Season Five with “The Gift.” I call it “Beware of God.”
If you’d prefer a pre-taste of my upcoming book CHILD OF A HIDDEN SEA, which is set in the same world as “Among the Silvering Herd” or my next related Tor.com story “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti,” here’s a post on mermaids I did for
My World… in Words and Pages.
Toronto continues to be a completely fun place to explore: here’s a store called Da Vintage Code. I love a good pun.
I have stumbled over a couple terrific art boards lately and have begun gathering up portraits of women as a result.
Many of the women on my Painted Ladies pinboard may be familiar to you–a lot of them are celebrity paintings by celebrity painters. Others, though, are newer or more obscure.
It has been fascinating collecting these, and what I’ve realized is that there’s a real difference between a photographic portrait–even if it’s fanciful–and something painted from scratch. The element of imagination is different: the painter imbues their subject with personality in a way that seems less about capturing reality and more about creating or amplifying it.
(From this you can tell I am not versed at all in art criticism.)
What was most exciting, though, was to stumble over Kneeling Girl, by Thomas Saliot. This is as perfect a picture of the protagonist of my next novel, a woman named Sophie Opal Hansa, as I could ever have wished to discover.
Today’s moving-related discovery: Revenue Canada will let us write off a ton of our moving expenses this year.