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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Thursday, October 05, 2006

voyage of discovery

More relatively sleepless time at night. As I noted in my morning e-mail to Kimmie, it can get boring lying around in bed in the dark.

It could be much worse, of course. And I don't spend as much mental and emotional energy on worrying about my work--that's surely a good thing, no?

I'm still preparing my notes for chapter 25. Now well acquainted with this process, I don't worry as much about this either. I recognize that I need to achieve a certain level of knowledge of my setting and scene before I can launch in and write it. It's kind of a visceral feeling of "getting it". Something goes click and I want to start writing--I know where I'm going.

I haven't always waited for that click moment before starting; indeed, I have probably started without it more often than not. The result is that the writing is hard going. The direction is not clear and everything feels arbitrary. Conversely, when you know what you're trying to do, what you're actually writing about, the writing goes quickly and easily--and it's fun. And it's usually also good.

So there are great benefits to be harvested from putting in the preliminary spadework. The trouble, of course, is that it feels unproductive. No new prose is being spun. Notes accumulate--notes that no one will ever see but me.

But the notes are, or can be, exciting in themselves. The draft itself, I've decided, is a voyage of discovery, just like the voyages of the Renaissance. You set out somewhere, or to find the way to somewhere, and what you'll encounter along the way you have no way of knowing until you meet it. Will you find monsters? Gold? Loving maidens? Hostile headhunters? Only one way to find out.

Thus, I find, even with an outline, I find the first draft to be exploratory: I'm learning about my world and my characters. Gradually things start knitting together, and there is a sense that it can be a single whole. My way, now at least, is to relish delving into the images I'm using, to seek their connections and meanings. I want everything to be there for a reason.

And now: off to lunch with my mother again. She has her own writing project on the go, and is seeking my help. Good luck to her!

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