“It's funny how just the simple act of answering a day's worth of e-mail will keep the crushing inevitability of the entropic heat death of the universe at bay for a good half hour to an hour.”
John Scalzi

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

invalid question, redo from line (n - 1)
Tue 2017-01-03 22:02:16 (in context)

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.

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