Friday, January 31, 2014

Cat-footed Ideas

When last heard from, I was preparing to leave for a writers retreat. Being among other writers, having conversations with them, kept both my energy and my motivation high. But, I went in planning much more than I could ever accomplish in a week.

The retreat turned out to be an opportunity to think rather than write. None of the projects I was working on was at the stage when I could set a word count for the day and start tapping away on my keyboard. For each project, I had brought along research material. I didn't get through most of it because there was other research I needed to do online (using library databases). So I did research -- reading and taking notes -- and produced nothing much.

But the time was not wasted. After a conversation over breakfast when someone who loves the time period asked about my 1939 book, I was so jazzed that I went up to my room and by the end of the day had created biographical sketches of all my characters and produced a first attempt at a synopsis. I'd even come up with a title for the book -- a title I later threw out. But it did get me to focus on my "bad guy" because the title referred to his view of the world. Once I begin to think about that he evolved from stereotypical villain plotting evil to someone who is dealing with his own contradictions and misdirected desires.

And then I was stuck again. So I did some work on another project, doing research and making notes. Still no significant word count, but progress.

This week -- back home and back to the routine of a new semester -- the thinking I did at the retreat paid off. The cat-footed ideas that had been playing around the edges of my consciousness took shape. (Forgive the mixed metaphors). The death of a character I had thought of while I was at the retreat suddenly morphed into a solution to the timeline that I had been struggling to figure out. A new character -- flamboyant and fabulous -- sauntered in and announced she was not only going to come along for the ride -- a train trip South in 1939 -- but that she was going to play a pivotal role in the action.

I'm trying to capture these ideas as I prepare for an author's event on Tuesday. I'm going to do a reading, and I've been practicing because I'm teamed with a best-selling writer who is incredibly at ease in that situation. So I'm making notes in between practicing the scene I'm going to read and hoping I can hold onto the ideas that waited until I was busy with something else to appear. I'm hoping they won't flee because I can't give them my full attention.

But right now I need some sleep. I'm off to bed and hoping to dream -- to spend some time with those ideas while I'm getting some rest. And provide them with enough attention that they don't slip away.

1 comment:

Charlotte Hinger said...

I'm green with envy. This sounds like such a cool thing to do. I would love to remove myself from here for a week or two.