Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Ready, set, go!

I've been amused by the recent posts by my fellow bloggers, all along the lines of Happy Holidays, here's what I did with the family, why I didn't do any writing, and so on. I confess that because my last post was due on Christmas Day itself, it didn't get posted at all. I had a house full of family, a seventeen pound turkey to cook, and more family coming to help eat it. I was too busy even to take photos. So here's my first holiday photo of the blog. This is only one table of two. I call it The Aftermath. 

But I was most intrigued by Aline's post about starting her new book, to which I said "That's exactly me!" In fact, I think that so often when I read Aline's posts that I wonder if we aren't secret identical twins with different accents.

I have been researching my next book for almost three months, reading cheerful tomes on domestic violence and trolling through the internet to learn about shelters, police response, therapy groups, etc. As I read, the characters in my drama slowly began to take shape in my imagination and some key plot possibilities emerged. But I kept stalling on actually getting down to write. New Year's Day was my drop-dead deadline. Like Aline, I am mostly a pantser and once I have a couple of opening scenes, I start the journey, knowing that if I planned ahead, I would be seduced by the first intriguing fork in the road and be off in another direction anyway. If anything, trying to follow a plan would only frustrate and bore me. I do think ahead in fits and starts, but I like the surprises my imagination comes up with and I like not knowing how it's all going to work out.

But it is also terrifying to be lost in the wilderness, not knowing where I'm going or whether I'll ever get there. This is the curious paradox that I think pantsers find so addictive. The journey is both thrilling and terrifying. Rather like plunging down a ski hill on the very edge of losing control. And, keeping with that metaphor, there I was on New Years, poised at the top of the mountain with my ski tips pointing over the abyss, gathering my courage. Finally there is nothing for it but to push off. Put pen to paper and start the first scene. Which I did on January 4. It's a brand new Inspector Green novel: I am bringing my favourite detective back after an absence of almost six years. So on January 4 I started feeling my way down the mountain and now have four scenes written, with ideas for the next three that emerged out of the writing of the last one. The story is picking up momentum.

The skiing analogy breaks down somewhat at this point, unless the mountain is very high and the path very circuitous. Because although at the moment I am gliding along and enjoying it, I know at some point the descent will slow, even reverse, and I will grind to a halt, forced to plod along and even climb again with great effort. Stories bog down and become mired in dead ends when one is a pantser. More and more forks crop up, with no clear path forward. The one principle I keep in mind (which is the same in skiing) is: choose the fork that promises momentum. The Goldilocks fork. Not the Black Diamond run that plunges me to the finish line too fast and recklessly out of control. Not the Bunny Hill that lulls me effortlessly down through each safe and predictable turn. But the Intermediate hill that keeps me close to the edge of my skis, gripping my poles and screaming curses into the wind.

I've got a long way to go, but each day I try to put myself back on that mountain, picking up where I left off and feeling my way down through the open spaces and dense woods, the cliffs and the bogs. I've got about eight months to go and 85,000 more words to write, but it's exciting to be starting the journey. 


Victoria Reeve said...

If you still have some research you'd like to do, contact the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (formerly the RCCEVAW), for some multi-disciplinary input, if you haven't already. I'm not sure who you should be contacting; Joan Gullen must have retired by now.

I'm so looking forward to meeting up with Inspector Green and his family once again.

Barbara Fradkin said...

Thanks, Victoria. I do need to get some local input at some point, so thanks for reminding me. Now that'i've announced his return, I'm happy to see how many people missed him!

Aline Templeton said...

Skiing never really took with me - cold and dangerous, and even the hot chocolate wasn't worth it. But I do agree about the terrifying thrill of starting and not being at all sure where it's going to lead. If, of course, it leads anywhere at all... Oh dear - and they all say, 'Oh, I'd love to write a book!'