Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Getting rid of the cobwebs

I’m currently working on a sequel to my novel, The Fallen One, which is debuting next fall. Since I’ve been busy with a whole raft of graphic design work and other author-type promotional things for my current novel, Orchestrated Murder, the past several weeks, it’s been very hard to steal a few hours to work on this new project. Like many other writers, I find it far too easy easy to “fall out” of my stories, even over night. But when it’s a matter of several days between working on something, I often find myself completely out of touch with what I was trying to say.

Since my new publisher (Dundurn) asks for submissions that include a chapter-by-chapter outline, I do have some sort of reference, but even 5 chapters into the manuscript, my plot is already “evolving” away from what I sent Dundurn during the approval process. I keep sketchy notes, but they’re not often much help when a week elapses between my fits and starts.

This morning, in order to wrap my brain around things, I read over what I have written so far – restraining myself from correcting anything – and then sat there gawping at my deathless prose. I’d left no notes about exactly where I wanted to go next, nor even why that last scene was there. I’m certain there was a very good reason, but I could absolutely not remember it.

My usual way of getting the creative juices flowing again is to take a long walk and just let the story roll through my head. Even though it’s a beautiful fall day here in Toronto, it was all for naught. My brain just wouldn’t cough up the answer.

So I threw on some recordings (Italian intermezzi, a little Verdi, a dash of Puccini) and looked through our photos from our visit to Italy (particularly Rome and Venice) this past summer. At last, I had an inkling. More photos (this time from travel books), mug of cappuccino (I hasten to assure everyone that it was before noon, so I wasn't being déclassé) and more music (some Rossini and more Verdi)... And viola! (as we musicians say), I had the solution of just why it was so appropriate to have that scene where I had put it, rather than later in the story. I also knew exactly what I had planned to do next – and, more importantly, why.

The really oddball thing here is that I was last working on a scene set in Toronto and the next one is going to be in Paris. Neither had anything overtly to do with Italy, although a healthy part of the book will. Listening to opera, of course got me thinking about singing and my main character, but there is something Italian that inextricably entangles my novel with this land of opera. Maybe that was it.

Or maybe I’d just so completely distracted myself, it allowed my subconscious to go to work and repair my faulty muse.

Regardless, I was back in business. Hot puppies!

Then the phone rang...a client...a problem with a design job...must be dealt with immediately because of a deadline. Sigh...

Just a note to Type M readers around Toronto, the launch of Orchestrated Murder is next Monday, November 7th. Below is the Official Invite. Consider yourselves most heartily invited. You also get to here me play trumpet. The band has made me promise not to sing. (By the way, click on the invitation to see it at full size.)


Eve said...

I'm in exactly that position. I have 4 point of view characters in my novel, I've read all of the last scenes I've written and have no idea what I planned to do next. Yay for you! You figured it out. I hope you made notes this time. I hope I make notes next time.

Rick Blechta said...

Four, Eve?! Boy, do you like to walk the tightrope. I like to set myself challenges when I write, but that’s one I think I’d be scared to try.

Let us know how you make out!

And I’m very pleased if I was even of some small amount of help.

I sort of made notes today, except that the call from the client was pretty urgent and I couldn’t spend too much time doing it.

Charles Benoit said...

Long walks usually work for me. That said, I'm just outside of Atlanta and nothing. Maybe I'll try music.

hannah Dennison said...

It must be catching! I am in the same position too!!! Consistency is the key - one builds up a rhythm but I'm such a hypocrite. I say all these things and don't follow through until i feel the deadline nipping at my heels.
Great post!

Rick Blechta said...

In Atlanta, alcohol seems to work well. I'd suggest a vodka martini with double olives, Charles.

Hannah, a deadline nipping at your heels is far better than Jack Frost nipping at your nose. And thanks! But the whole post was a lie, a sham, a mockery, a sham of a mockery of a sham. I am always totally and completely organized at all times.

Or not.