“The world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before.”
Neil Gaiman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Day 6: But Why Can't You Just Get It Right the First Time?
Sat 2010-11-06 21:43:08 (in context)
  • 11,763 words (if poetry, lines) long

My daily novel excerpts seem to be getting longer. Also, when I do take the time to revise before excerpting, it's more like rewriting. Significantly. Like, totally replacing the sentences I wrote today with new ones. It feels like cheating. But, hell, it added about 100 words, so who's to complain?

Not that there's any worry there. I wrote for a total of 25 minutes today--the combined time of the word sprints we had at today's Healing Tea write-in. (And boy is it fun introducing people to Healing Tea! Everyone was like, "Wow, this bibimbob is tasty! Also, do you want my kimchi?" I was the general kimchi depository. The gal on my left was the general miso soup depository.) And yet I got my word count to where it ought to be at the end of tomorrow. My NaNoStats page says that at this rate I should finish by November 25. Those two facts don't fit together very well; if I'm constantly a day ahead, I should finish a day early. But NaNoWrimo.org is calculating based on average words per day, and getting a different answer. NOT THAT IT MATTERS. THE POINT IS: I don't think I've ever been this consistently ahead of the game before. Word count is not my problem.

No, here's the thing that gets me: If my fifteen-minute revision of this 500-or-so-word segment pretty much scorched the earth and built new words where the old were deleted, why didn't I write the new words in the first place?

It's like I have different brains on. When I write the first draft, I have nothing in front of me yet, so I'm writing down what's in my head--and discovering that, despite the advantages of thinking in complete sentences, I really don't know how to write it down. So I fumble and write some pretty unfortunate sentences. Later, even if I simply read what I had, deleted what I'd read, and wrote the scene anew, I have the advantage of having read the story. I've read it before, I know what it is, and so I can write it down more accurately, more simply, more cleanly.

Which is weird. What is this part of my brain that engages with the written word so differently than the thought-about word? A couple of class times ago, we talked about the different mental modes of listening to books being read aloud versus reading the book, and that much I get, but--it's weird that my need to have words put in front of my face in order for me to learn their content applies even to words I myself write. I have to see it written before I know what I'm trying to write. What the hell? Shouldn't it be enough that they originated in my own head?

I wonder if I could successfully engage that part of my brain by "reading" an imaginary page--by clearly visualizing words on a page as I mentally construct the next scene of the novel?

The circling memory finally stooped, like a hawk upon the mouse that has just come up from underground. "Oh. Oh shit."

"Yes?"

Lia lifted a hand to her left ear. "I think he's after this." She indicated her lapiz lazuli earring, the one set high up in the ridge rather than the lobe. Touching it, remembering--oh, this was bad. This was worse than Jet showing up, worse than hallucinations that stuck around or real people who could change shape and then die and come back. "It belonged to Tresco's daddy. I took it when I split."

Worse enough that Lia no longer avoided looking Jet in the face. So she was watching when that strange blank crossed the woman's eyes. Already a brown so dark as to seem black, they became blacker still, the pupils lost like a shadow in a shadow. Then the moment passed. "That's it," said Jet. "My new assignment. It's to do with the Swifts. With Pa Montrose. And I was sent to your home because you're still involved with them."

"What? No! Fucking no. No, I left them years ago. I am done with them."

"They appear not to be done with you. May I--?" Jet reached tentatively toward Lia's left ear. Lia flinched, then steeled herself. Closed her eyes, like a patient getting a shot. When after a long moment she still felt nothing, she squinted through her meshed lashes to see--as best she could out of the corner of her eye--that Jet held her hand cupped near Lia's ear, rock-steady, rock-patient.

"Do you want me to take it out for a moment?"

"Sssh."

Jet's eyes fell closed. Her hand remained motionless. Her breath moved quietly, so quietly and slow that Lia could see no motion in her chest, only the subtle shifts of shade and light in the folds of her red blouse. Did it have to be red? After last time? Lia's eyes kept returning to Jet's neck, unwounded, unscarred. A small mole down by the right collarbone was the only feature on that unblemished plain.

Her lips began to mumble things Lia could not hear.

It took several minutes. Lia wavered between nervous boredom and nervous memory of the events that had followed the car wreck. Her eyes, having nowhere else to go, flickered over the cheeks, the hair she'd caressed that day, the lips she had kissed--

Jet's arm fell to her side. Her eyes flashed open; Lia tried not to meet them. "No. It didn't belong to Pa Montrose. But for some reason he wanted everyone to think it did. What is this stone, Lia?"

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