Thursday, April 23, 2009


Anyone besides me stuck in the midst of road construction this spring?

It's one of the drawbacks to having moved to what was, 11 years ago, little more than a few dozen houses next to the lake and is now a thriving near-city. Businesses, schools and roads have all had to play catch-up.

Which is fine. I'm not whining. (I may be whinging a bit, but that's completely different. For one thing, whinging is done in a British accent, which makes everything sound better.)

But I've noticed something unsettling as I've crawled along the road these last few weeks--all of this construction bears a disconcerting resemblance to the way I write.

In other words--it's a mess.

I would never have guessed I'd be a messy writer. After all, I'm quite neat with my belongings. My home is orderly. My calendar is up-to-date. I can find anything I need to on my bookshelves or in my closet. I almost always do the dishes before bed so the kitchen is clean when I get up. I hate piles of things and am very good at throwing out stuff.

Logically, one would expect that such behavior would carry over into my writing. One would expect that I have nice, neat outlines before I begin the first draft (or at least the second). One would expect that I would plan before starting. One would expect, at a minimum, that I would know, not only the beginning and the end, but anywhere from 2 to 8 plot points in between. One would expect I would do all my research in advance and keep it nicely filed to call upon as needed. One would expect that revisions for me would be a matter of cleaning and tidying.

One would be wrong.

I'm more like road construction--dirty, annoying, and with no pattern at all discernible to the naked eye.

Take my current WIP. You know I finished the first draft in November. You know I started the second draft in January. You would think (heck, even I would think) that after living with this story since last August and completing one and one-half drafts, that I would know precisely who does what and why.


At this point, the only thing I can say with complete confidence is that it's a timeslip romance. (Timeslip being a slightly more melodic word for time travel.) There's a girl, there's a guy, there's death and history and a first kiss. All the rest is still up for grabs.

Except the ending. I do always know my endings. To carry on my analogy, I know where my road is going, I just don't know exactly how it's going to get there.

But I've decided I wouldn't have it any other way. (Which may just be a case of making a virtue of necessity, but better that than fretting about it.) Because in the mess, my imagination is unleashed. I don't know why that is. I don't know why my mind won't wander at will before I've gone to the trouble of writing 70,000+ words. All I know is that the actual writing--not outline writing, not synopsis writing, not idea brainstorming--the actual writing of the story starting at the beginning and going on to the end is the only way I've found to discover what's going to happen.

This time (in the second draft, mind you) I'm discovering that I have some great secondary characters that are bursting to have as much fun as my heroine and hero. Which is fabulous--until I realize I need to go back 1 or 2 or 6 chapters and fix a detail or dialogue that no longer matches. Like I said, it's the drawback. The price I pay for being messy. But in the midst of the mess, I can see the straight, shining ribbon of black that is my story and it's worth all the backhoes and dump trucks and traffic jams to make it real.

Back to the mess.

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