The Interlude

One movement has ended. Another is to begin.

I pause here to consider the movement that’s finished, reviewing the highlights. There are many. Look for flaws and shortcomings. Relieved to find nothing niggles. Worry that I’m blind to the faults. Sigh and dismiss it. Hope I’m wrong.

I sit in the space between the movements, looking back, looking forward. Back draws me with pleasure. It’s a job done, a project accomplished, an achievement – a novel written, revised, edited, polished – and I felt fulfilled while working on it. No matter whether others read and enjoy it, I have read and enjoyed it. More, I’m always amazed by the process of turning over points, asking what if and why, and planning a move.

But writing a novel, like many things, twists in unexpected ways. Characters take over and lead down surprising paths. Reaching the end, asking now what, I ask what if and why, plan the next move, and something happens and the writing train speeds on.

I’m bemused sometimes when people tell me they’ve attempted to write a novel and reached a point where they weren’t sure what to do next. Don’t know what the characters will do. So they’ve stopped.

Well, of course. That happens all the time to me, probably once a week. That kind of road block must be navigated. I do so in multiple ways. Read, edit and revise what’s already written. Think about the ending and what’s been unresolved, what’s blossoming. Walk and consider my life and how the character(s) would behave if my life was their life. Put myself into their life (in the novel) and consider what I would do, if I were them, and why that’s not what they would do. I read other books. Something recommended to me by others. Or mind candy, a page turner without much depth. Or an award winner. Or a new finding by a favorite author. Or blogs and articles. I walk, eat, think, sleep. Whatever. What I don’t do is worry about being paused. That’s all the roadblock is, a pause. If I think of it like taking a road trip, this is heavy traffic, or construction, just something that must take place and be passed before the trip resumes.

Ahead, after this interlude, I see the challenge of re-engaging the next book, because this is the editing phase for it (although it’s been edited, revised and polished before), and the insecurities and worries that always accompany re-visiting my writing, that the visit will reveal all the flaws and shortcomings, that the characters will be flat, the settings empty, the story silly and the novel will be a mess. That’s not how I remember it, but I was reading the other day that memories aren’t actually that efficient, that small details are recalled and we build the rest into something that works for us.

Funny to read and reflect on that item about memory. The book to be edited is all about memory (and, naturally, perceptions, and competing, conflicting perceptions, and how reality  is constructed and maintained). Most of my books are about these things. Memories inform characters and readers, shaping experiences and expectations. My characters are like me, flawed and searching, struggling to grasp what happened and what’s going on, trying to forge a way forward. Their odds against them are always much larger than my odds, and their risks are greater – life, death, reality….

So I’ll go as usual to my writing place, the physical one first, the coffee shop. Find a table and get my drink. Then I’ll go to my writing place, the mental one, and move into the editing department. Then I’ll open the manuscript on my computer.

Then I’ll play games. Surf the net. Post to FB. Read the news. Think about other things. Twenty, thirty minutes will pass. Then I’ll say, okay. Enough. Let’s go. Get to work. Do what needs to be done.

And then I’ll begin.

But right now, I’m just going to sit in the moment.

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