After a dry spell, imposed on me by many other demands, for the past several days I’ve been writing new content again. It’s good to be back, I really needed a little creative expression. It’s been a couple of months since I put time into the current project, so I started at the beginning, editing all of what I’d written (roughly the first quarter of a novel). Once I was clear again on the story arc under construction, reminded of my understanding of the characters, over this past week I’ve written another couple of chapters. I feel like the story is going somewhere again.
When I’m really immersed in a project, you might say obsessed, I find myself editing wherever I am, in my head. I recall a piece of the dialogue or a section of the narrative, deciding on adjustments. He shouldn’t reveal that secret yet, or too much description made the scene too long. I’m not in front of my computer, looking at the draft, I’m just remembering what I’ve been writing, critiquing the memory.
Most of the fiction writing I do is in the evening, after work, after household chores. I often fall asleep thinking about what I’ve just written, so there is a sliver of reality to support the claim made in the title of this post.
I used to say to myself, oh, that’s good, I’ve got to remember that edit.
I seldom remember.
Now I pull out my phone and make a hurried note. Here are some actual notes from my phone.
Mk sure Mex shws hes vulnerbl
Well, that’s clear, isn’t it? It’s Max, not Mex, in the first manuscript I finished. I’ve been mulling how to take away its ordinariness, how to abandon tropes and make the leap to people behaving like real people behave. I wrote the note thinking about wanting to make Max less perfect, less predictable, let his vulnerability show a little bit. When I wrote the note, in a doctor’s waiting room, I had the spot in mind, but I didn’t write down that useful bit. I’m still looking for the spot.
It’s not that the horses are too tall. A chapter in the new project has two characters go ride his fences. It has to much exposition, I decided the morning after writing it. I had the impulse to add the little horse-race, I think it works, I like where it leads, but isn’t it too much detail? I’ll edit that chapter next time I have time for writing. I wrote the note in my car at a stoplight, that’s why its so short.
I don’t rely on word counts to tell me anything about progress being made, but I do have a word count budget for each chapter. This one runs long.
Why go rdng?
In the chapter where the horses aren’t too tall, the bad boy invites the good girl to ride with him. The first draft of the chapter starts with them already side by side on two horses out in the country. Driving to work in the morning, I couldn’t explain why good girl would have agreed to go riding with bad boy. As soon as I was parked where I work, ten minutes after the stoplight, I captured a note that I needed to give a reason why this scene was possible.
Why not Nick beer?
This note is an example of discovering my characters by writing about them. Farmer Nick’s side gig is the little bar in his little farm town. His rule as the bartender is he’ll never let a man get drunk enough that his wife would come in complaining. But still, I felt he had some other reason to spend money and time on an espresso machine, to serve fresh-squeezed lemonade. Those details started as just being more family-friendly. The only bar in a tiny town would do that.
Early on a Saturday morning I wrote a section in which Nick could have had a beer, but drank iced tea. Two hours later, pushing my cart through the aisles of the grocery store, I wondered why he’d do that. I wasn’t sure why, except that it felt right, I had included him skipping the beer. He’s already admitted travel in Europe was mostly a search for the next scenic place to drink beer. He’s not against running a bar, so he’s not a teetotaler. Doesn’t that suggest he’s a recovering alcoholic? That’s not in the story yet, but I have a place in mind where it might be a useful detail in a conversation leading to the climax.
I transcribe my notes into a file on my computer now, expanded with more detail. Like my handwriting, notes on my phone are easiest to understand in the first few days after they’ve been written.