Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Laying out the House

Despite having a professional service come in and haul away absolutely everything that didn't sell at the tag sale or get shipped by the movers, my stepmother feels the need to go in and do a final sweeping and mopping of the large, now empty house on Long Island that was their home for so many decades.

I was going to tell her this isn't necessary. The man buying the house isn't going to need it cleaned to perfection. And then I realized this is what we do to the shell of things that were important to us. Bodies are bathed and cleaned for burial, as if earth or flame needs them clean. Even the tiny deaths of change bring out the need to honor a place by leaving it well tended.

She needs to mop. I need to mope.


And I am happy to report that I'm up to 5,211 words in my novel. Right on target. This time the writing is more directed by plot. As I walk to the places I go to do my writing, I talk to Jim about the mechanics of getting my character from one situation to another, racheting up the stakes, what to do with some of the peripheral characters, and above all, ask important questions such as what sorts of martial arts would a werewolf girl take?

During the day I find myself thinking of my book as if it were something I'd taken out of the library and wanted find it so I know what happens next. I can almost see the cover under the glossy library jacket. Then I ask myself what a cheesy writer would do and beg myself to do better than that, throw in a wild card. And dialogue, and tell them what it looks like, and make it feel real.

Last year I based my novel on a fairy tale, setting it in 1911. The historical demands combined with my inability to trust hasty research really inhibited me. This time, no such problem. I know all the settings, the time is now.  As I navigate the skills needed to construct a novel, I am thankful I eliminated some of the clutter. Maybe after I finish this book, I'll feel confidant enough to go and finish the other one. But for now, I hear the dogs howling. Time to write.


Joseph Hayes said...

Ah, I see you've forgotten my rule of playwriting: make the poster first! You're a designer, create that cover, wrap it around a book and put it on your shelf, take it to the library and wrap it around the latest bestseller. It is very much like housekeeping, and very much like a magician's trick; if you can get your brain to believe it already exists, all you need to do is fill in the blanks spots.

Deborah Atherton said...

You're entitled to mope. The houses we grew up in never leave our dreams or our psyches. On the other hand, it's good to write in the present, and relieve ourselves of all the pressures of being true to some other place and time. So you get to just be true to yourself - a good thing, especially, in this month of high powered writing!