inasmuch as it concerns Plotting And Scheming:
The puppeteer's art of Making Stuff Happen. Subject to change without notice.
invalid question, redo from line (n - 1)
Holy heck. Said I had this week's number, didn't I? No idle threat, that. Writing! Derby floor preparation! Household chores! Seafood udon for dinner! I just blew Tuesday right out of the water. Bang! Splash!
I am especially pleased because I finally got to work a solid afternoon session on the novel. And despite not spending that session in the tub with a glass of wine, I figured out some extremely key things. I still haven't figured out the ending, but I did finally figure out what exactly the main antagonist wants anyway. That's an important piece to uncover. Just that by itself got me miles closer to the ending.
Thing that makes plotting difficult sometimes: Unlimited choice. Otherwise known as having to figure out who wants what and what happens where, from the micro to the macro. What knick-knacks are on the receptionist's desk in the first scene. How long a drive our protagonists take on their way to confronting Delta's mother. The nature of Michael's relationship with his parents--or is that just one parent? And which one? Which of them took the lead on that terrible decision years ago and argued the other around to their way of thinking? After the divorce, which one raised Michael? How often did he see the other? And how did each parent answer questions about that terrible decision Michael was not to know about? What about the secondary characters we've met along the way--what's their larger role?
So many decisions. And there aren't any right or wrong choices, not at first. So those first decisions are the hardest to make because how can I choose? How do I know I'm not painting myself into a corner? Because once the first decisions are made, they limit the options available to the rest of the decisions.
The later decisions are the next hardest to make because it turns out some of the earlier decisions--not the first ones, but some of the ones somewhere down the decision chain from there--can be totally wrong, but I won't know it until later.
It goes like this. I'm stomping around the house asking myself, "What exactly is it Delta's mother wants? Why is she calling Delta up? Why is she reappearing in her life? Why doesn't she just spirit Delta's daughter away from Delta's ex-husband--is she calling Delta up just to taunt her? What the hell, as-of-yet nameless antagonist?!" And there are no right answers. Nothing feels right. Nothing makes sense. No answers I can think up come with that special sense of inevitability. There's no near-inaudible thunk of a puzzle piece fitting into the slot that only it can fill.
Why? Why am I stuck? Whyyyyyy?
Because, as it turns out, I was asking the wrong question. And this was because, at a particular decision point just upstream from here, I managed to get myself stuck up a tree.
The question I answered wrongly was "Who calls Delta up during her first date with Michael, and why does it upset her?"
Since the right answer turns out not to be "Delta's mother" but rather "Delta's ex-husband," it makes perfect sense that I couldn't answer the question "Why is Delta's mother calling her up?" Turns out she's not. So.
Moral of the story: If you're stuck on a plot question, it might be because the plot answer that led you to that plot question was wrong. Back up a step and see.
on convincing protagonists to climb trees that are bad for them
OMG you guys I KNOW WHAT THE CAT SAYS. (No, smartass, the answer is not "Meow.") I mean, I kinda know what it says. Maybe not word-for-word, but enough to get the plot moving both forward and away from the main characters' homes and workplaces.
My problem--what had me stumped--my stumparoo--was in thinking the cat would just open its mouth and impart some sort of Cosmic Wisdom upon poor, confused, troubled Delta. When your pet cat suddenly starts talking to you, it's kind of a momentous occasion. I thought that what the cat had to say ought to be momentous too. Oracular, even.
But that was my mistake. The cat is a kindertotem, an animal made up of all the parts of its human that its human outgrew. An externalized inner child, if you will. Inner teenager maybe. I think Michael was fifteen, maybe sixteen, when he went fully human and the cat showed up? So the cat might angst. The cat might be very intelligent but also whimsical and reckless. The cat might have a simplistic point of view. The cat will most definitely not spout the Wisdom of the Ages.
(This is a good thing. I'm not particularly good at coming up with Wisdom of the Ages for my characters to spout.)
In fact, it's the cat's simplistic point of view that helps move the plot. He points out a very simple solution to Delta's complex problem. Sometimes, it takes a simplistic, straightforward POV to cut through the complexities and deliver a simple solution.
What was it H. L. Mencken said about that? "There is always a well-known solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong."
Of all the ways I could get my characters up a tree, "It seemed like a good idea at the time" is a great one. After that, the rocks pretty much throw themselves.
can't TG when I isn't O
It's Thursday. Thursday is scrimmage day, both here with 10th Mountain and back home with Boulder County Bombers. (I hear tonight's BCB scrimmage was fantastic.) Unfortunately, a conflicting event scheduled in 10th Mtn's practice space obliged them to cancel tonight's scrimmage, so I never did get to try out the jerseys I made out of those plain white and black T-shirts I bought at Walmart the other day.
Actually, I only found time to finish one of them, and I'm still not sure it was a good idea. See, after I hacked off the sleeves and six inches of the shirt tail, I cut that material into long strips, about a quarter-inch wide, which I then crocheted into numbers which I sewed onto the back of the shirt. I'm a little concerned that the crocheted numbers are too thick and heavy to hang from such a lightweight material. They're also about a quarter inch thick, which could be a problem in terms of sticking out and catching people's fingers. I don't know. I'll try it out when I next need a numbered white jersey and see what happens.
It's possibly a good thing there wasn't scrimmage. My shoulder got tweaked a little last night, ice skating up at Beaver Creek Village. It wasn't a fall! It was one of those sharp backwards windmilling arm movements a body makes when trying to catch one's balance, even after roller derby has done its level best to train a body otherwise, and I guess I pulled something, 'cause it hurts. It feels better now than it did late last night, but it'll be even better after resting a few more days.
I went ice skating last night and paid full price because I knew with scrimmage tonight I wouldn't be able to go when it was free. Well, surprise! So once I heard scrimmage was canceled, I headed back up to BC Village again. Unfortunately, those rental skates are really unfriendly, and my feet were still annoyed at them. Most especially annoyed was my right upper ankle/lower outside shin, where the hard boot cuff had abraded a slice out of my skin last night which opened up again tonight. The boots also pinched my feet, as though the soles, rather than being sole-of-foot shaped, resembled valleys. And not wide, rolling valleys, but sharp, deep ones still being carved by a white-water creek. And the snow was piling up on the ice. I think that's why I skidded around worse tonight than last night. In any case, I managed just a few minutes of skating before giving up. Good thing it was free!
So in the end I walked across Avon and took the shuttle up from Elk Lot to BC Village... mostly just to have dinner at Blue Moose Pizza. So that was my Thursday night.
It's also December 1. December 1, in addition to just happening to be the day this year when the reindeer visit Avon Public Library (they are adorable and a good deal smaller than you might imagine), is the day after National Novel Writing Month ends. This is sometimes known as "Thank God It's Over" Day, when NaNoWriMo participants hold TGIO parties to celebrate achieving their goals and getting their lives back. But my novel, far from being over, has not even hit word 1. It's still deep in the planning stages. No, despite designating November as the start of my personal "novel-writing season," I quite definitely didn't do NaNoWriMo this year.
I feel a little guilty about this. I did it for so long, it became a tradition. But if everything I did for more than two years running became obligatory for the rest of my life, I'd have no room to try new things, or to just rest. Besides, after twelve years of done-and-won, and then a few years of "Am I doing it? I should be doing it. Except I don't seem to be doing it," I've come to the conclusion that I've learned what NaNoWriMo had to teach me, and it's OK to let it go. Maybe at a later date I'll return to it, but right now I have other things to learn.
(Like how to plan a novel. And then how to begin drafting it without blurting out all the juicy worldbuilding details in the very first scene.)
The other thing about NaNoWriMo is, it's social. It's joyfully social. It's an international communal challenge that brings all its participants together under a single banner and in pursuit of a single cause. And that is awesome, but it is, at this time, no longer for me. I seem to have reached a time in my life (and doesn't that make me sound old?) where my writing process has become intensely private. It wants a writing environment that's more or less under my control. Like, say, in a room in my house behind a closed door. I'll still write in coffee shops and libraries occasionally (and have done most days this week!), but my threshold for ambient intrusions has dropped sharply. And what with a decade of being a NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison and organizing and attending NaNoWriMo write-ins, I've kind of burned out on having to be the Mean Lady who's constantly telling everyone else (including, memorably, my co-ML that final year) that this is a write-in and some of us are trying to write and could you please take your loud, animated conversation elsewhere. I'll happily do a write-in with a group of close friends who have all agreed what we're there for, but I'm kind of done, at least for now, with public write-in events a la NaNoWriMo.
In the meantime, I continue planning out the current novel. During tonight's session I managed to start moving out of backstory and worldbuilding and into plot. There are several catalyzing events that I know of, but I don't know what they consist of. For instance, I know Delta gets a phone call during her first date with Michael, but I don't know who's calling or what they have to say. I know that the talking cat has something to tell Delta, but I don't know what.
And so forth. I made a list of that sort of thing. Questions That Must Be Answered Before The Plot Can Move. And then filled in a little more backstory and worldbuilding, which led to at least an idea about who might be on the phone.
Argh. But I'm getting closer to being able to start writing actual scenes. When I do, in the spirit of NaNoWrimo, I plan to do it at a rate of at least 1666 words per day. Every month should have fifty thousand words in it. Or more. Because this is what I do.
the hot tub and red wine method of novel planning
- 1,328 wds. long
Tonight was another successful evening of novel planning. Yes, yesterday counted as successful--once I put away the laptop and got in the tub. This time I skipped the bit that didn't work and went straight to dunking myself in hot water AND I COUNTED THAT TIME TOWARD MY WRITING LOG AND YOU CAN'T STOP ME. Because it worked. There was about 20 minutes of soaking in the tub and talking to myself, and then there was about 20 minutes of non-stop feverish-paced typing to jot down what I came up with. We have a method, folks.
We may need a non-tub version, though, because once I get back to my own house, it might be prohibitively painful in the utilities bill. At the very least, I need a comfy place to lounge and complete solitude so no one will hear me talking to myself. But I'd prefer the wine and hot tub method any time I can get it.
Meanwhile, I got this book out the library, right, I got it yesterday, but this evening it TALKED to me about THE VERY THINGS I'D BLOGGED ABOUT YESTERDAY. Like the author knew. It's The Writer's Idea Book, which isn't entirely my cup of tea as it turns out--the author's sense of humor comes across to me as LOOK AT ME I MADE A JOKE, he has a tendency to make unmerited universal pronouncements ("Who, for heaven's sake, doesn't like Popeye?" Me, for one, but thanks for telling me how absurd and freakish you think that is) and the "prompts" are more like the Tasks in The Artist's Way than they are viable jumping-off points for my daily freewriting--but which is nevertheless full of unexpected gems here and there. Like...
...under the spell of The Author, that part of ourselves that sees every moment of writing as important and valid only if it leads to publication.
(Emphasis mine.) Which seems to speak directly to my insecurity yesterday that the time spent novel-planning was such a waste of time compared to, say, revising a story that's nearly ready to submit, or going back to consider an existing novel draft that's much closer to completion than this thing that still only lives in my mind. I'll also admit to chafing at my Morning Pages or daily freewriting sometimes for the same reason: THIS isn't publishable writing, why am I wasting part of my precious day on this? Despite knowing that they are both valuable exercises from both a craft and self-care standpoint.
And then there's the frustration that came from sitting down at the laptop to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, only to find that I couldn't make the missing knowledge appear just because my hands were on the keyboard.
Ideas don't respond to the force of our wills--damn them. We can't make them appear. That's why when we're feeling blocked it does little good to try to pound our way through. It won't work. We'll grow even more frustrated....
Getting ideas requires allowing our minds to yield....
YES. Or, in other words, relax and let them come. Let yourself off the hook. Don't try (so hard!) to figure out the novel. Get in the goddamn tub, drink your wine, and daydream about the novel.
Incidentally, another activity that has produced significant insight into this novel is thinking about it while falling asleep. Not coincidentally, my dreams have also played a part.
Anyway. During my successful novel-planning session tonight, what did I come up with? All the details about Delta's daughter and the broken contract that obliged her, Delta, to give up her name. Also an extra tidbit, related to that, which makes the tragedy in Michael's backstory not just a maudlin trope but PLOT-NECESSARY. Yay. I was worried about that.
And that's all I'm going to say. This novel is now far enough along that I can't keep blogging everything anymore because that would be spoilers. And that's kind of exciting!
The closer we get to the point where it's time to start writing actual manuscript, the more scared I get. Can I do it? Can I actually convert this novel in my head into a novel on the page? Emotionally, I'm all nooooo it's not possible I'll BREAK it I suck forever. But logically, I remember that I've been doing exactly this in short-short form almost every week for two years now. This is exactly what I'm supposed to be getting out of Friday Fictionettes: practice in, and confidence in, turning ideas in my brain into stories on the page.
Speaking of Fictionettes, I have released the Fictionette Freebie for November 2016. It's "The Witch on the Corner." Link goes to the HTML version, which now includes the first text. At the bottom of the page are links to the ebook and audiobook versions, or you can just click the links right here. Free for all! Enjoy! See what you think!
no no really this is part of the writing process
I've never planned a novel out the way I'm trying to plan this one. But then, I've never actually finished a novel at all, so it was probably time to change my approach. Oh, I've reached THE END before, I've reached 50,000 words, but I've never quite managed to clean up the babble into proper drafts and chapters, fill in the holes marked I'LL THINK OF SOMETHING LATER, or clean up the infelicities and unfortunate implications. I've never gotten more than the first three chapters of a novel ready to submit anywhere, and since the rest of that novel was still a mess, those three chapters were probably a mistake. But all the novels I've ever not finished, I wrote them according to the NaNoWriMo method: 1,667 words a day, come hell or high water, and fifty thousand by 11:59 PM on November 30th.
Which is to say, until this fall, my novel writing experience has consisted of pounding away at the keyboard whether I knew what came next or not. It's a perfectly feasible way to do it, but I can't help but think my failure to finish revising any of them is connected with this untidy method of creating them.
So this fall I determined to plan everything out before I wrote Scene 1. Instead of the Chris Baty "No Plot? No Problem!" method, I'd give Rachel Aaron's "from 2K to 10K" strategy a try: The more you know about what you're going to write, the faster you can write it, the more you'll enjoy the process, and the more developed your first draft will be right out of the gates.
Aaron's first step is to write down everything you already know about the novel. Cool. Check. Good. It's her second step that's bogging me down: Fill in the gaps. Take all the stuff you don't know, and figure it out. I'm having trouble figuring things out. Like, oh, how the novel will end. And a large chunk of the middle, too, I don't know that either. Every time I sit down, I figure out more about the characters, their surroundings, their conflicts, and their backstories, but I still don't know how things will proceed. It's like there's a barricade constructed right across the plot timeline about two weeks into the narrative, and I keep running into it--wham! Ouch.
Today, taken as a whole, went swimmingly. I worked my "morning shift" right on schedule (at the Avon Public Library, as planned), so I had plenty of time to stroll around town, shop, eat, and then go back to the room and read (library books!) and nap. Then I sat down to my novel planning session, also right on schedule. I had allotted myself two whole hours to work on that novel, and not the last two hours of the conscious day, either! It was, in theory, fantastic.
In practice, I immediately got uneasy and restless. Like I wasn't properly utilizing my work day. As though sitting there planning a novel was wasting time. Like I was cheating my timesheet, crediting myself for two hours of writing when all I'd done was sit there staring into space, talking to myself, and typing incoherently into my Scrivener project. Which, yes, is part of the writing process, I know that intellectually, but deep in my gut where the butterflies live I feel like it doesn't count as writing at all.
It's not precisely that I feel I should be typing up the draft rather than planning it--although actually typing out actual scenes would probably help mitigate the uneasiness. It's more like I'm feeling that any time spent on this novel is a waste, and that I ought to be spending my day on more worthwhile projects that actually have a hope of getting finished. Like revising one of my already sorta-finished novel drafts. Or writing new short stories and revising existing ones for publication. What if this novel never gets finished? What if I never figure it out enough to write it? What if I secretly know that it'll never get finished, and that's why I'm doing it, as an infinite means of procrastination such that I'll never finish or publish anything else again?
Reminder: These are not my logical thoughts. This is the shape of my uneasiness. Have you met me? I am a very insecure person. If you didn't know that, awesome. Maybe I've gotten better at hiding it over the years. (I hear that's like 85% of adulting right there.)
Sometimes, when I'm stuck, things will come unstuck if I just talk to myself about them. Not on the laptop; just talking to myself, out loud. Admittedly, I'm always talking to myself. It's like my thoughts aren't real until I've made them into words that my ears can hear. So that's what I did tonight. I put the laptop away, ran a hot bath, and commenced with the relaxing and talking to self. (The talking to self method works better while relaxed. Relaxing works better in a hot soak. Also, a hot soak was really necessary after this afternoon's hour and a half walk to the Walmart and back. I forgot to pack my scrimmage jerseys, OK? So I needed cheap T-shirts in black and white. $2.79 in the craft aisle along with all the fabric paint pens you can choke on.)
What I was hoping to figure out was more street-level details of the neighborhood Michael's currently living in: what his daily commute looks like, what cafes and restaurants and bars he frequents, what his apartment complex is like. I can't really write forward without knowing the terrain the characters are going to be moving through. I didn't get any of that. What I did get was a few more details about childhood in Allemondia, the kinds of fairy tales and fantasies that those facts inspire, and a tragedy in Michael's childhood that was a factor in his decision to be a doctor.
Argh. More background and backstory. Still no narrative progression. But I got out of the tub and I wrote all of it down, because I'll take whatever I can get. In the end, it's all going in there.
doing things by halves
Well, I survived the weekend. We didn't win, but, looking at the final score, we could have, which is a pretty amazing thing to say the first time you face off against a team of that caliber. Tonight's practice was mostly taken up with talking about the game, about lessons we learned, skills we need to drill going forward, things we wished we could have done better and things we're glad that we did so well.
Next up, I will most likely be skating with our B team on April 30 in Eagle, Colorado, at a one-day tournament hosted by our friends and arch-rivals the 10th Mountain Roller Dolls. Between now and then, all the practice.
Got only half a work day in today, but it was a good solid half-day. Spent a good session on this week's planned fictionette offering--I've got a couple characters and a premise, but I'm still a little undecided on the shape and structure of the story. Figured I could at least start to draft the opening paragraphs despite my uncertainty about where they were going, and, as usually happens when I "just write it anyway," I found out some useful things that way. Seriously, it's amazing how useful and important those throwaway details, the ones that turn up because I sort of filled in a blank at random, turn out to be.
In addition to that, there was my designated half hour for dealing with the business side of freelance writing, which usually involves submitting a story somewhere or figuring out where next to submit a story. This time, since I didn't have anything lined up and ready to go, it was spent in pure research. "Research" here means catching up with an online writers' community bulletin board that I frequent and seeing where others have been submitting stories lately. It's a big, sprawling forum, and it's very easy to get lost in about fifteen different conversations. I focused very specifically on the part of the forum dedicated to discussing individual pro markets. Even so, I felt a little guilty. I was on the clock! I was supposed to be writing! What was I doing reading the internet?! Still, I reminded myself that reading this particular corner of the internet was a legit part of my business plan. Call it networking. Call it market research. I have a half-hour of every writing day set aside for precisely this, and this is how I get to use it.
As a result, I do, in fact, now know where I am next sending a story. Tomorrow I'll probably figure out which story.
this fictionette is very, very nervous but STRONG LIKE OX
OK, real quick 'cause it's late and all: It's Friday--well, it was Friday about 51 minutes ago--and we got Fictionette. "This Will Be My Origin Story" is about someone who thought she knew her own strength, but didn't really, and now it's all gone to hell. You know how it is.
It was another night up late reading again (my self-control is indirectly proportionate to my proximity to a book) and sleeping until noon. So I got started quite late. And yet somehow I managed to get all of the things done, writing and otherwise. By otherwise, by the way, I mainly mean my motor vehicle registration renewal and change of address. This required two phone calls so far. It will also require a trip to the emissions testing tomorrow morning and a visit to the license tag renewal site in the middle of next week.
I put in another hour on the new short story. Or, rather, I eked out another hour. Turns out I didn't have all that much more ready to scoop out of my head and dump on the page. So I wound up talking to myself about the story in the Document Notes fields of my virtual index cards. A lot. Unfortunately, this doesn't count toward the story's word count. Well, maybe fortunately. It was a lot of babble. Also, I did some research and found out that first off, dryads are literally the spirits of oak trees, and secondly, there doesn't seem to be a handy word for the spirits of maple and cottonwood trees. Then there's the bit about dryads don't so much turn into trees as they simply live inside them. I may need a different mythological creature word entirely for what I'm trying to do.
The reason I deliberately let myself sleep so late is roller derby. Of course. Scrimmage last night was particularly rough--fun, satisfying, exciting, but rough--and further more Saturday is bout day. Our A and B travel teams are going to play Rocky Mountain Rollergirls' Fight Club and Contenders, respectively. That's "Fight Club" as in "Currently ranked #16 in the world," by the way. And also? I've been substituted in for someone on our A team. Baby's first bout with the BCB All Stars is also going to be baby's first sanctioned bout is going to be against Fight Club. Egad. Cue all of the imposter syndrome. And also the nerves.
So I think maybe we can forgive me for indulging in all the sleep? You know. Just in preparation for stuff?
Um. If you're in town and free tomorrow night, it would be awesome to see you in the stands. ALL THE HEARTS AND FLOWERS Y'ALL.
approaching the rough draft in scattershot fashion
- 2,100 wds. long
Today's been an unusually glorious and productive day. I'm hoping to do something about the "unusually" part, going forward--days like this ought to be routine, drat it all!--but I've been in deplorable sleeping habits the last few days (or weeks). Up reading until sometime past two (and I'm not going to try to say how far past two, because around two is when I just stop looking at the clock), then, as effect follows cause, unable to get out of bed until dang near noon.
I did mention I was binging on T. Kingfisher ebooks, right? This would explain the "up until sometime past two" part of the equation. Nine Goblins was a lot of fun. Bryrony and Roses was amazing. Now I'm waiting on a paperback of The Seventh Bride to come in the mail.
Anyway. Today, despite being up until stupid-o-clock reading last night, I got up on time. That made everything else possible, including a substantial session on the new short story.
Yes! The new short story. It still doesn't have a title, but I've changed the working title (more like a working not-a-title) to reflect the main character's name. She has one now. It's Ellen. Well, in full, it's Barbara Ellen, and if you are at all of a folksongish bent you'll see what I did there. Maybe.
Good grief, was February 18 really the last time I touched it? (My database doesn't lie, but sometimes I forget to give it the whole truth.) Well, the draft is about 1500 words longer than it was. A neat trick, considering I really didn't know where to go after the first scene, or even how to finish the first scene.
I had--I continue to have--certain things I want in the story, plot elements and character backgrounds and so forth, but no clue just yet how to get from one to the next narratively. So, instead of spending another hour obsessively revising the first 500-word chunk, I switched over to what I'm thinking of as the Scattershot Strategy.
For each story element I knew that I wanted to include, I created a new Scrivener text file, and I just started writing in it without any thought for how the results would fit into the overall story. Just get everything that's in my head down on the page, regardless of whether it all works together yet. It wound up feeling a lot like plotting with index cards, only instead of physical index cards I've got virtual ones that I can drag and drop into any order. One of them has the very last two sentences of the story, and nothing else. One of them tells the tale of Ellen's mother's disappearance. Another is the scene where Ellen and the man who was a tree show up at Ellen's sister's house--that will probably be the third scene in the story. (The second scene still hasn't come clear.) Yet another "index card" has a few disjointed lines representing the climax of the story's central dilemma.
Point is, once I stopped worrying about how I'd get from here to there and gave myself permission to just teleport, more or less, it got fun. Like my freewriting sessions are fun. Like writing rough draft is supposed to be fun. I'm in the sandbox, playing with words and characters and ideas! Nothing has to be perfect! This, this right here, this is something I absolutely love about writing.
I sometimes lose track of the things I love about writing. Today I got reminded.
Hooray! More tomorrow.
there is a sound of electric feedback and footsteps walking across a darken
- 1,085 wds. long
[insert tapping noise and cliched quip about microphone testing here]
Er. Hi. So... writing! How about it? I hear this blog is supposed to be all about actually doing that thing.
Haven't touched the new short story in some time. It keeps falling off the back of the priority list while Other Things take over. I've been thinking about it, though--and while they say (and they say true) that "thinking about writing isn't writing," thinking can help prepare the way for the writing. Hopefully when I finally get to finishing the draft (this week! Maybe?) some of that thinking will show up on the page.
I did get last week's Friday Fictionette out on time, more or less. It's called "How Fetches Become Real" and it's sort of like the first act of The Unlikely Ones (Mary Brown) meets the last act of The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams). So that's fine. What I'm embarrassed about is how late I am at getting the Fictionette Artifacts ("fictionettes in your mailbox, typewritten and illustrated by me!") into the mail. This is something that matters to exactly two people in the world so far; to them, my apologies. Tomorrow! The mail will go out... tomorrow, betcher bottom dollar that tomorrow... there'll be mail... *ahem*
So, with very little to report on the writing front, how about a book review? Semi-review? A book report, maybe? I just finished reading T. Kingfisher's The Raven and the Reindeer. In fact, I've been on a bit of a T. Kingfisher binge, because why haven't I read everything by her yet? Well, get on that! So I am. It is now my absolute favorite retelling of "The Snow Queen," and it had Kelly Link's "Travels with the Snow Queen" ("Ladies. Has it ever occurred to you that fairy tales are hard on the feet?") to contend with for that title. So very much is right about it. From the start, Gerta is introduced as a young girl with a crush on her oldest friend, with all the uncertainties and squirming insides and embarrassment and worry that comes with. Not to mention that naive blindness to Kay's faults, the willingness to explain away the ways he's careless with her feelings because he is everything she always wanted and without wanting him who would she be? My heart went out to her and stayed with her the whole way through.
Kingfisher's treatment of the robber girl, here named Janna, was superb. I can't get over how much depth and complexity she's given. Plus she and the protagonist are my OTP, y'all, I have shipped them in my little fannish heart forever, and here Kingfisher has put their romance right on the page, growing from tiny seeds of discovery into an engine of courage that drives both characters to suffer any hardship necessary out of love for each other. (Speaking of which--there is no nonsense on these pages about Gerta's greatest strength being her "purity" and "innocent heart", thank you very much Hans Christian Andersen. What a burden of expectation to put on a child! Kingfisher's Gerta is no angelic paragon, thank goodness. She's a teenage girl full of emotions and insecurities and desires, some of which desires are unashamedly sexual.
Gerta's journey has the explicit purpose of rescuing Kay, but that's not the most important thing it accomplishes. Gerta's journey is about Gerta growing up and discovering who she might choose to be.
And then there's the titular raven and reindeer, and what the latter gives to Gerta, and lessons learned about death and life, and there's a whole troupe of otters who are utterly adorable, and and and everything is fantastic. And I was having a tough day, the day I finished reading it, and the book made me cry happy tears at the end, which is always a good remedy for a day that involved crying not-happy tears. It sort of transmutes the weepiness into beauty, detaches the tears from the hurtful experience and reattaches them to a transcendently enjoyable one.
TL;DR: I really liked this book and heartily recommend it.
driving through the fog of an unscheduled day
- 585 wds. long
You know what's the worst? Totally unscheduled days. No, really--you get up right on time, you do your first writing task, then you think, "I have all day to do the rest of my writing," and then you go bike all over town, take yourself out for lunch, run errands, take a long nap because you just biked all over town in the gloriously warm sun--and then suddenly it's late in the evening and there is not enough time in the world to get everything done.
Well, OK, maybe you don't. Maybe you're smart. I seem to not be very smart when it comes to managing totally unscheduled days. Hence, Saturday is the Friday, etc. etc., many apologies, check back tomorrow.
Meanwhile! New fiction. The new short story is proceeding slowly in a sort of NaNoWriMo-esque way. Not as regards word-count, though. As regards discovery. I only really know what happens in one scene, which makes the whole endeavor sort of scary--but, so what? Write that one scene. It is amazing what little details pop up when writing that one scene, and what guiding stars those details can be. For instance, when the main character noticed that the weird tree had oak bark but "five-fingered leaves that reminded me of my father's maple farm"--OK, that's a clumsy sentence that could use some revision, but shut up, that's not the point. The point is, now I know her Dad runs, or used to run, a maple syrup operation. Which in turn gives me a clue about where she might have grown up, what kind of activities she might have enjoyed as a child, and also the nature of her relationship with trees. The latter is more significant than you might think; the first scene depicts a tree transforming into a man right in front of her eyes.
We're back to E. L. Doctorow analogy of writing being "like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." Some versions of the quote add the extra hazard of fog. Imagine a blizzard, too, if you like. The point of the analogy remains the same: The little chunk of road (story) that you see now enables you to drive into (write) the next chunk of road (story).
Anyway. Fictionette tomorrow. For serious. pMost of tomorrow afternoon is entirely unscheduled, after all...