Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Why it takes me five years

I’m finally actually writing my third book – yes! You may see it for sale in a mere five years or so! (For me a whole page is a good day.)

One of the things that slows me down is the one-idea problem. I have one idea / scene / event that I spend half the day wrestling with and working out, and the other half painfully getting into actual words on the page. Sure, I think I’m clear ahead of time on what I’m going to write, but rarely does it turn out that way.

Today I was all set to spend a few minutes on a scene at the point where my heroine moves out of the house. But, oops, where is she moving to? I set my scenes on real streets; I need to get that straight. Spent some time on Google Maps deciding where she’d go. Two lines into writing it occurred to me – as a student, how is she affording this? I started looking up rental prices in Toronto, and then the minimum wage, and began questioning whether it was realistic for her to move out at all. Then I started questioning why she had to move out. (All of this is deeply ironic and familiar because my last kid just left home.) By the time I had it sorted (yes, she needed to move out, and she was going to work for a year to save money before university), half the day was gone.

Tomorrow it will be the same thing all over again with the next scene. It’s a bit like making dinner by preparing one ingredient at a time, starting with growing it from seed. You plant the cauliflower, grow it, weed it, pick it, cook it, eat it, wash the dishes, and then flood your back yard and start growing the rice. Don’t ask me about incubating the baby chicks. I’ll get to it sometime; I just don’t know when.

I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time rummaging through Google to get the details right. I figure out how locks are put together, where streetcars go and what is on the actual restaurant’s menu. Sometimes it’s necessary, and sometimes it’s a fabulous way to procrastinate while convincing myself that I’m really working. The problem is, if something doesn’t make sense I can’t skip it and move on; I have to work away at it until it does.

Writers who are able to just write, full out – to get a draft down before they edit – have my total admiration and envy. I edit constantly. A sentence can be rearranged five times, ten times before it sounds right to me. And chances are I’ll rearrange it again the next time I see it. I’m also trying to write about the subtleties of feelings, relationships, the nature of power – and I’m making it up as I go along. How much to say? How much to leave to the reader’s interpretation? I oscillate between worrying that I’m being too obscure and too obvious.

Then of course there are the distractions. Email, Fetlife, lunch. Email, Fetlife, dinner. Blog. Goodreads. It’s summer; aren’t I supposed to be getting out of the house once in a while?

Nah. Lunchtime. I’ll plant the seed of the next scene while I eat.