Rust, Clear Water, and Finding the Corners


…and you write until the rust comes out of the faucet, and it’s clear water. Then you write down the clear water.

–Lin-Manuel Miranda

Furious writing in the margins is a good thing. Furious writing in the margins, that wraps around said margins, across the top, and down the other side of the page, is even better. After yesterday’s breakfast with N, and her critique of the revised outline for the last leg of Her Last First Kiss, (there is a unique sound made by a writer when the writer’s critique partner announces they have a few notes on the pages the writer sent them the night before, and then takes out six handwritten pages. Ulp is not quite it, but probably the closest approximation, only more whimper-y.) and possibly the longest detour I have taken yet on my way home (on the plus side, there are some gorgeous brownstones in this city) I arrived home, thankfully not overheated, which is rare for this summer, and ready to work. Bold and italics both needed here, because brain was firing on all cylinders and I needed to get home and make some serious notes.

There’s a special feeling for us puzzler writers when it clicks that, yes, we have all the pieces now, and we can move on to the  next stage of the game. I’d tossed the outline N’s way, to make sure there were no dangling threads (there were a couple, but a bit of chatter over tea/coffee and bagel/Danish) sorted that out right proper, and…yeah. This stage is done. I’m one of those writers who has to know where I’m going, and if that means splashing around in the shallows for a while, I am, at this stage in my life, fine with that. I’m not writing anybody’s book but my own, so I need to do what works for me. It’s like finding all the corner pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, because once one has the corners, one knows the boundaries of the image. Top and bottom and side pieces are also clear, and, once that happens, then the mess in the middle isn’t quite so…messy.

It’s actually kind of fun, fitting things where they ought to go, especially helpful when the characters do the heavy lifting. Going from “Hero has to find out Heroine is pregnant somehow, but I don’t know what he’s doing while she’s doing her stuff over here, blah, blah, self-flagellate, cry, etc, ” to “well, this time when she blurts it out to Other Character would be the worst possible way for him to get this information, so that has to happen, so that fits,” is pretty heady stuff. Since characters aren’t waiting in the wings, tapping their feet and waiting for their cues, that means Hero was doing something else, and since things have to come to a head with Supporting Character and Hero, oh, well, it makes perfect sense they were over here, doing that other thing, and then they saw/heard the thing and came to see what it was, and then, dun dun dun… Not fun for them, but good for the story.

Now it’s a matter of going back to the start and make sure everything that comes full bloom in the end is planted in the beginning, and that I properly tend it along the way. That is about as much as I know about gardening, so I will leave the analogy there. What I do know is writing historical romance. Now that I know Location is actually going to get some screen time, as it were, there’s research to do on that, and, now that it has a name, I have to go back and change references to “that place over there” to Location’s proper name. Still keeping names close to the vest on this one, because that’s what feels right for this story, at this time. It’s not big enough to play outside on its own, without holding onto Mama’s hand at this stage but, at the end of the next pass, I think it will be.

With the framework in place, now it’s time to start making it pretty. There’s still the whole matter of connecting the back part to the front part and that’s going to take some work and some loose leaf paper and some sticky notes (Plot board in my closet, I am looking at you.) and looking up from the keyboard to see the metaphorical story contractors standing there, in their hard hats and overalls, clutching metaphorical blueprints and wanting a minute of my time, because we’ve come up against a zoning ordinance or the  new guy brought the wrong lug nuts and has to go back to the hardware store, or unicorns are nesting in the hole dug for the reflecting pool, but those are occupational hazards. What’s important is that I know where the corners are, and the water coming out of my faucet is clear again. Next evolution.



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