Wednesday, March 28, 2007

this is what it comes down to sometimes

Writing process. My novel-in-progress has the most complex structure of the three I've written thus far. I'm over halfway in this first real editing pass since I completed the first draft, and not surprisingly, there are some sequence issues.

Once I start the real editing, I always keep the current ms printed out on paper and at my fingertips, because I often get to a point where I truly need the pages in my hands rather than the computer screen in front of me.

This novel has two points of view, which alternate, and the entire book shifts from present to various parts of the past for both these characters. I have an actual sketch of the structure in one of my Moleskine's - and amazingly, the book is following that to a large degree. I've almost pulled it off.

However, this week I hit a wonky place in the ms - the order I envisioned doesn't quite work in the pages. I've avoided tackling this glitch because I knew it would be messy and that I could not do it on the laptop.

So. Today, this is where I am with it.

My garret isn't big enough to spread this thing out! Each pile represents the two corresponding points of view. The uppermost piles are present time, and the ones below are past time. The two upper piles to the right are thick - I haven't begun to sort those out yet and already I'm needing to turn a corner in space.

I'm having a vision of the ballroom at Weymouth, sitting in a lotus position in the center of the room, pages spread around me in a perfect circle, time line intact.

Alas, right now I'm late feeding horses, and the day beckons. What will really be true is my pages will be covered with Corgi and cat tracks by the time I get back.

If I'm lucky, they will fix the sequence problem for me.


Carolyn Burns Bass said...

I attended a reading and talk from novelist Susan Straight on Saturday. She voiced something I do, but had never verbally or mentally constructed: Even when she's cooking dinner she's working on her novel, when she's driving her kids to appointments, she's working things out, when she's lying in bed, she's thinking through the work.

Perhaps the ritual of love you give the horses may free up some bandwidth to help you see the novel's big picture. It sounds fascinating, btw.

Off topic: Is that the treadle of an antique Singer sewing machine on the far wall of your office?

billie said...

Oh, yes, Carolyn, I know exactly what Susan Straight means, and what you describe.

The process continues whether I'm consciously, literally working on it or not. I often find solutions to writing issues while riding Keil Bay. Getting in sync with him seems to free my mind in very important ways. I suppose it's a form of meditation.

Thanks for the kind words - nice to hear in the ongoing saga of publication. :)

And yes, that is my grandmother's Singer. If you look back to the February archives, you'll find a post called "more metaphor" that talks about the sewing machine and what it means in my creative process.

Jason said...

Sounds like an interesting novel...

Very Quentin Tarantino-ish...

billie said...

Hi, Jason..

Funny, I hadn't thought about it, but I guess the time shifts *are* a bit Tarantinesque. :)

I also have a fondness for creating subtle connections between novels, so that they intersect as though all part of one bigger work.

Which in a way, they are.

This novel has a very sweet story that is wound through with darker issues. I was addressing one of those specifically until I got off on the sequencing tangent this week.

There is some violence. I don't know yet how far that section will go.

I personally think this would be a terrific film - we'll see. If it does make it to the big screen, I'd love it to debut at the Sunrise, since a portion of the novel takes place in the pines. :)

Speaking of the Sunrise, the current movie looks intriguing!

Matthew said...

It's always amazing how much I learn from this blog!

Anonymous said...

Complex, interwoven plotlines are the devil sometimes. Sometimes it takes the lotus position, or even Patton's war room, to connect all the dots.

I've been known to use color coded computer outlines when the going gets tough.

billie said...

Jason, color-coded computer outlines sound intriguing...!

I have progressed to a handwritten chart, which helped me identify the core issue, which, once I identified it, I also recognized as an issue I identified months back when I was writing the thing.

Back then, I said "oh, I'll fix that when I edit."

It was so nice having the first draft luxury of saying that. :)

I sort of know what I need to do. It's just that it's so tedious to do it.