"Not an early start today but it doesn’t matter at all because the unity feeling is back. That is the fine thing. That makes it easy and fun to work."
John Steinbeck, ‘Working Days,’ Entry #14, June 14, 1938
Well, not necessarily easy to work, but certainly fun again.
Chapter six is done and chapter seven is begun and after lots of preliminary stuff, the book is off and running. Or, if not running, limping along like a Special Olympics athlete with a knee brace and crutches.
Chapter six was the novel’s engine, that souped up HEMI that gives us the forward motion. In this case, it was a murder and seeing that dead body will now lead us the machinery of an investigation and a carnival of suspects. (hehehehe, right now, there are – literally – 300+ suspects)
But then, as so often happens and which I love so much, the ecstasy of discovery also came along with chapter six. I had forced Jace into a situation where she was getting pummeled verbally and emotionally by one of her own detectives (because of things that happened in the the first book) and as she stood up for herself, as she decided this was the moment when she’d taken enough bullshit, I discovered just how badly things had gone for her during the eight weeks between the end of the first book and the beginning of the second.
I love those discoveries. This one was small in actuality but huge emotionally. Just a bit of paper, really, that I realized was defining Jace for this entire book. The outcome of the definition was there already, but I hadn’t understood exactly where it had come from.
I know, it sounds smooshy and ostentatious and overly-writerly, but that’s pretty much how it is. And let me tell you, those kinds of discoveries, where the writer’s subconscious is allowed to stretch out and get some good steam up, do not happen with outlines.
As a writer, I never had much use for outlines and plans and all the rest. Christie Golden, a fantasy writer friend of mine, and I once had a conversation about outlines. She writes Big Fat Fantasy with thousands of characters and all kinds of spells and brews and potions and all the things that readers of BFF love and demand. To keep it all straight, she works from outlines.
But her outlines run 100 pages.
To me, just write the damned thing. If the outline is that long, that involved, it’s really nothing more than a short version of the book. Outlines worked for her and she didn’t really give a shit that I thought them a waste of time.
Well, I still don’t use full book outlines but I do find myself outlining chapters. I have a few paragraphs, a few sentences. Just enough to get in the important points that I have to get in. Anything extra I discover I consider the literary equivalent of found money. I see it, get excited and gleeful, and move on.
So while I don’t yet have a complete picture of what is what in this book, I do now have strands and threads slipping out and away from me like all the roads out of Rome. But it is in that very mess and entanglement that I find my control over the book building. It is in the chaos building on the page that I find some of the unity about which Steinbeck wrote.
I really do think this is going to be fun now. Not that the set up hasn’t been fun, but hell, now we’ve got blood and vendettas.
I don’t care who you are, blood and vendettas ain’t nothing but fun.