Day Four: Wildy Omnivorous
- 7,919 words (if poetry, lines) long
So today it happened: I simply could not push forward with the plot line from the previous three days. After the end of yesterday's scene, I had absolutely no idea what would happen next. And any new conversations with the shop keeper would seem repetitive. So I skipped over to something else, like I've been threatening too.
There's a thread in the Boulder Regional Forum where we're talking about the dilemma, for some of us inevitable, that arises when we lose confidence in our stories and want to just start fresh with a brand new novel plot. Different people's responses range from "Don't be afraid to start over, but don't erase your word count back to zero" and "Push through, no matter how much you've come to hate the plot, if only so you can have the satisfaction of deleting the entire thing on December 1." As for me, I've given myself a plot structure that allows me to start over at any time and simply call it a new chapter. Totally stuck on the vampire dress plot? Start a new chapter about a new magic item.
What magic item? Dunno. Let's pull up my dream journal and find out.
5/2/2011: I get a call back from PC Express about my Compaq Aero telling me to just buy a new computer. "Well, I did; I just want to keep this old computer running." The man on the phone, who is now standing before me on a balcony patio, doesn't really understand this, and in fact actively disapproves. I exasperate him.
Oh, well, then. That's easy. The next chapter should be about a laptop.
The year was 2002 and Maggie was in the market for a new computer. One purchase later she'd still be in the market, but it's not like you can see a lemon sitting on your horizon like a sour sunrise. Hindsight, as they say, is twenty-twenty. Foresight is more like twenty-eighty-five.
This being November, it is not the time to berate myself for coming up with yet another protagonist name that starts with "M". Nor is it time to interrogate whether 2002 is really the year I want to set Maggie's chapter in. This is the time to just plain output. If the stupid creeps in, so what? The stupid spill on aisle four can wait until after November to be cleaned up.
But I did more than just start a new chapter. I gave myself permission to be wildly omnivorous.
Last night -- or rather, more to the point, this morning, at the unholy hour of 3:30 AM, I woke up. The cats weren't being loud or unduly active, John wasn't snoring or thrashing, no cars on the street had unleashed the full fury of their alarm systems. No. I woke up because my back was killing me. Have you ever been in so much pain that you wanted to scream, but you were afraid that if you did scream, you wouldn't be able to stop? Well, this wasn't quite that bad. I've been that bad, and this wasn't it. But I could see that place from the place 3:30 found me at. The rest of the "night" was a blur of trying to sleep, failing to find a compatible position, visiting the bathroom for a glass of water and a pee, climbing back into bed, and whimpering a lot.
And somewhere during those long uncomfortable pre-dawn hours, I was close enough to sleep to have a half-dream involving a bat fluttering around between the bathroom and the closet. But I wasn't asleep, not really. I was awake enough to think, "This hallucination has got to be worth at least 500 words."
So at tonight's write-in, I started not with the computer shop scene but rather with the description of the dreamed bat sighting. Did it have anything to do with the novel so far? Not that I could see. But it was writing, which is a good in and of itself. And it may yet tie in to the main plot. Better to write it down than to let it fade just because I can't justify putting it in the novel. So I just created a new chapter file, called it "Stuff Without a Home," created a new scene file, called it "The Bat," and I wrote about the bat.
It was more than 500 words, as it turns out, and it involved the suspicion of an interdimensional portal where the bat got in and was trying to get out again, the way a sparrow flies in a window and then has trouble finding its way out again. Also, another new scene file in which I described my all-over bleargh feeling (the sore back turned out to be part of me coming down with that sort of cold that manifests as fever symptoms minus the actual fever, as it was later joined by skin sensitivity and hot flashes) connected the malady with the character's early warning supernatural defense system. Yeah, this could definitely be part of the novel. Or some other novel.
And only then did I start Chapter 2: The Bit About The Computer.
But this store was even more untidy, even less antiseptic than that. Take the clutter of a pack-rat computer nerd, then add several boxes more of equipment from perhaps 1995 and earlier, and replace the blue nubbly carpet with autumn-leaf shag, and give the walls some off-white streakage that looked rather like the roof had sprung leaks the owners would prefer to just ignore, and you'd get something like this. Also there was a closet door with a menacing look to it, as though opening it might lead to a darkened labyrinth of 1960s card-reading behemoths that were willing and able to chew up and spit out today's spoiled computer users.
It was pretty dark in the store, too. The owner appeared to rely entirely on daylight through the storefront windows, allowing him or her to save money on not installing overheads. The ceiling was made of dingy plaster squares, some of which had unevenly cut edges and seemed capable of falling through the steel laticework at inopportune times of their own choosing.
Maggie soldiered on, determined to give her dollar to the local economy. Besides, some of those boxes looked fascinating. In no time at all she found herself forgetting why she'd come in. The new laptop she needed for her college computer science classes and word processing needs fell off the back of her mind while rare and no longer produced hardware called to her in the siren voices that live at the intersection of antique and electronic. Eventually a shop clerk interrupted her. She was working her way slowly through to the bottom of a cardboard box of 1990s home-use modems, and she was in the process of extracting a 300-baud monstrosity for closer inspection, when the voice at her ear said, "Looking for something in particular?"
The voice was harsh, scrapy, the exact opposite sort of voice as those that could be "velvet" or "crooning," and it startled her into abrubptly yanking at the modem. A corner of it tore the final blow into the aging cardboard, which had probably once been left in the path of the aforementioned roof leaks. The box's side sagged and blew out, spilling outdated hardware across the counter. Only by shifting quickly to her right and blocking the avalanch with her chest did Maggie prevent the modems from taking a long drop to the shag carpeting.