22 February 2013

Taking a Deep Breath

Today is one of those rainy days where the rain pelts the roof and comes down sideways. I'm wrapped in a blanket, nestled in my favorite chair in the library, sitting in front of a fire while the scent of fresh Daphne wanders about the room. Zelda is curled up in a tiny ball on the floor in front of me and it's hard not to let go of all the silly, stupid things and focus on the joys that life brings, the simple pleasures my privileged life provides. There is no question that I am fortunate.

I've been pretty quiet around these parts for a variety of reasons. I've had a lot of distractions pulling me in some different (and difficult) directions, along with a few deadlines that needed to be met. There's nothing like a nearly 600 page book to read (and a restricted time to read it in) when there is already so much going on. At least it was a great read! (And one which I am not allowed to talk about for nearly two more months...sorry!)

The good news is, things are finally calming down. My schedule is clearing up, I've got a couple mini-vacations in the works, and some actionable thoughts on finishing this manuscript. It will happen and it will all happen very soon.

But for today, what I need to do is breathe. I know it's impossible to live without breathing, just like I know that it is entirely possible to cease breathing in a necessary way. So today I will draw the breath all the way from the very tips of my toes until it is time to exhale, letting it go, along with all the pain, the anger, and the frustration.

03 February 2013

Results of an Experiment

I can say, without hesitation, that I really enjoyed and appreciated the challenges and results of this past week's Groundhog Day Writing Experiment. I loved the excuse to write every day, the self-imposed assignment worked well for me. I hate to say it, but I love the thrill of goals and deadlines. It's nice to know that even when I'm only accountable to myself, I can still make it happen.

I found it difficult, at first, to get away from what I'd originally written. There is a reason the story begins where it does, but what I really hoped to explore was, "Does it have to?" The question I wanted to address was really, "Could/should it begin somewhere else?" As the week wore on, I began to understand the various ways in which I might play with it. On Day 7, I even experimented with writing a prologue to see how that worked (and I'm pretty certain it doesn't, but at least now I know).

About halfway through the week, my mind stubbled upon an incredible "What If" question that could influence the story in a big way. It wouldn't require a tremendous amount of editing, just a few new scenes and it would work to create a true conflict between the two characters that would definitely need to be resolved. And best yet, it would be true to each character's nature, both in terms of their motivations and their reactions. I'm going to stew upon it for a few more days and then I may read through the manuscript, noting where adjustments would need to be made.

The whole point of this exercise, was to think about Jezebel in a fresh way. To think about her character, her flaws, her strengths, what makes her who she is and what makes her make the choices she does and make her react the way she does. I don't think I'm quite there yet, but I think I'm getting closer.

I've thought a great deal about why Holden is a much easier character for me to write than Jezebel and I'm not yet sure I understand completely, but I think I'm getting there. Holden, I just knew. I knew him inside and out. Jezebel is a bigger mystery to solve. She doesn't reveal herself in the same ways, but I think I'm finally understanding why and so I think I can finally write her in a way that the reader can understand, appreciate, and root for.

Here are all the first (and unedited) sentences from the last week. As you can see, several of them begin in a rather similar place, though they often took off in a different direction from there. Each day taught me something I needed to learn. It was a week well invested.

Original: All night long I wrestled to find sleep.

Day One: Some mornings I wake up from a dream or a memory and there is that lingering moment where I forget where I am and how I got there.

Day Two: I only knew that I had actually fallen asleep when the sound of a text message startled me back awake.

Day Three: When I woke, I could still hear the echos of "Happy Birthday" singing in the quiet spaces of my mind.

Day Four: It was hard to say exactly when I started to wonder about the various ways in which a person could run away.

Day Five: I was already three blocks away from the house when I realized that I should have left a note.

Day Six: I don't know why I thought moving halfway across the country would cause me to wake up feeling like a different human being, as if it is latitudes and longitudes that tell us who we are.

Day Seven: There have been many occasions where I've let my mind wander back to the very first day I met Holden.

2013 Groundhog Day Experiment