Monday, November 28, 2005
Stringing It All Back Home
I love Bob Dylan. Many of you already know that; for those who don’t, you’ll realize it soon enough when the second book of my series (PARALLEL HEAT) hits the shelves next fall. But that’s not the point, apart from explaining my blog title. I want to talk about the struggle of putting all the parts of a novel together, at least for me.
The truth is I tend to write way far ahead. In fact, I already have about 100 or so pages on my third book down on paper, which I wrote while halfway through book one. Can’t help it. If the story is speaking loudly to me, I have to go with that energy. In fact, an author who I hold in high esteem once gave me a great piece of advice. She told me that if she didn’t write ahead—but merely kept anticipating those big scenes off on the horizon—by the time she reached them, all that power had faded away. Ever since that discussion I am a huge, gung-ho believer in writing whatever scene is whispering to me with the loudest voice.
The downside of that habit comes in pulling all the disparate bits together. For instance, on the book I’m currently writing I have a big huge chunk written toward the end—segments totaling more than 100 pages. But I’m nowhere near that place on the front side of the book, in other words, we are missing a big middle chunk. And that missing piece calls the latter part into question.
So how does one handle such a situation? I’m reminded tonight that outlining is my diehard friend. In the past I really did love outlining—lately, I think impatience has taken the stage and I’ve drifted away from the habit. But then you just reach that point in a book—especially if you write ahead—where it won’t come together and make logical sense if you don’t take a step back and figure out how it all tiles together.
I think of it like a mosaic, each piece a tesserae and it’s my job to form the full picture. Life has a similar out-of-order quality, even as its happening chronologically. Ever notice how many times your memory takes over with your own life’s events, reshaping their pattern into the “right” arrangement? I think that’s our mind trying to outline events into the most coherent, artful shape of things. So why do we resist the need to lay out our own books? Or, at the very least, why am I resisting it lately?
Perhaps the fear of concretizing the story too fully. Perhaps that impatience I mentioned above, the urge to freight train into the battle without stopping for water or air. I’m not sure. But tonight I’m going back to my own writing basics. I’m outlining, stringing it all together, and remembering that the most important thing as a writer is to hold to your best habits. Hold the course. Keep the faith. Keep on writing until the book is done.