Why I am ever a writer

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This morning, on his blog, Neil Gaiman talked about why he loves being a writer...and of course, he's right on all points. Those are the same reasons which make me delight and thrill in writing. Because even though there are the bad days, where you strongly suspect that everything you write is just cleverly worded crap which everyone is going to see through, there's the other days when the whole thing is taut and singing. I think of it as an orchestra: Some days, it's tuning, some days the whole bulk of instruments is playing Night on Bald Mountain or something, and you know it's good.

But there's another part of writing which I really enjoy.

I am working on my next novel The Nondescript, although since I'm racing with several people (you know: almost the entire reading audience of this blog), I'm not actually writing anything for it. I'm not even making notes or outlining, because I just don't outline very well. The only work I've done, and will do, beforehand was I sat down with a piece of paper and worked out my timeline. It's a historical novel, after all: everything needs to line up. Since I wasn't alive in the first half of the 20th Century, I have to do some research.

But regardless of writing things down, I'm putting things together in my head. It's what I do. I know quite a large portion of my cast of characters and what they want (and what they'll get) and I know how my beginning goes and everything.

(An aside: That's why I'm doomed in this race. Every other time I've raced and won by a huge margin, I was in the middle of the book. The beginning has been figured out, the ending is not yet arrived, so all I have to do is find my rhythm and sprint. But here, I'm starting page one, word one, at the very start. Doomed, doomed.)

Last night, lying in bed and thinking about Chapter One, I suddenly realized that I knew the story of what I think will be Chapter Eight, and it arrived whole and vivid and delightful and I was really thrilled to have it turn up.

I don't know that it'll be a popular chapter. Chapter Eight is titled Nigger-Town and concerns a hanging and a kiss, and it's a dark chapter in a book which is primarily a road-trip story and a love story. But I can't wait to write it.

That's what I love about writing, the bits that turn up later which I know what to do with. They inform the earlier bits (this tells me that the other chapters have titles, and I think all the titles are names or descriptions of towns; it also tells me about one of the characters who will appear previous to Chapter Eight). It will also inform the mood of the story thereafter. I also think that maybe, that's where the violence starts.

I'm really looking forward to this novel.

I'm in frantic Rome Novel Finishing Mode. I really want to have the first draft done by October 31st. I know everything in detail from now to the ending, the trick is just sitting down and putting all the remaining words in cunning order, as Douglas Adams once said. Coming up next is a big battle scene which is a logistical and combative nightmare, for reasons I can't research. So I have to write slow, think fast, and hope I turn it into something worth reading.

Okay, I'll go write now. No, I'm going. See?

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