Tuesday, February 14, 2006

There and Back Again

A funny thing happened today. It is not the first time something like this has happened to me.

Last week I finished the first scene in chapter 11 of Light out of Shadow with Maddie and her father, knowing that the next scene, which would eventually continue issues raised with her father, would be from Trap’s pov. I thought I would do a small preliminary scene with him set in the location where he was when the first scene broke – maybe at an inn by the barracks across town. Or at a nobleman’s house. Maybe I'd introduce some Kiriathan mercenaries… But… it was dead.

Maybe he could be giving fencing lessons, or taking part in a fencing match. No. That was dead, too. How about if he was walking back to the palace and waylaid by someone? Maybe an enemy. Or the mercenaries again. But as before, when I tried to write it – when I even thought about trying to write it, everything went cold and dark and dead. I couldn’t do it.

I’ve been wrestling with this since last Thursday -- for four days now. Yesterday I despaired. I wondered if I even liked this book. I feared maybe I couldn’t write it after all. All was gloom and doom. The only bright spot was the knowledge that I had been here before. Many times.

I have a little quote from the book Overcoming Writing Blocks that applies:

“It is important to realize that before any problem is solved there is very often a period of frustration – a time when it seems you are getting absolutely nowhere, that you are further from a solution than ever, and that all is hopeless. The harder you think, the more hopeless it becomes. The feeling is natural.”

Natural. Whew!

Then I woke up this morning thinking about Robin Hobb’s Madship, which I finished last night, and realized two things. The first was that I didn’t like the way she so thoroughly developed all her different viewpoint characters, each with their own individual stories, because every time she made a switch, I was so engaged with the present story that I HATED having to switch midstream to someone else. Every time I would repeatedly flip through the book to find where the thread of that viewpoint continued and read from there.

My second realization was that I’d been trying to make myself develop Trap in the same way she does her secondary characters (if you can call them secondary). (That’s not a criticism. A lot of people enjoy her work to pieces. Actually I’m one of them, I just read it rather oddly.)

Anyway, I realized then and there that I didn’t want to do that with Light out of Shadow. This book is about Abramm, and I am most engaged and excited and interested when he has the focus. I just needed to get to the action in the scene with Maddie’s father, not dilly dally with Trap’s concerns. My first thought was that I’d just continue the first scene into the second all from Maddie’s pov. Forget Trap altogether, or maybe let him appear at the end to help her. But when I worked through the original scene again, despite having plans to do a somewhat substantial revision, I ended up at the point where I’d originally left off with the scene itself pretty much intact. And realized that I was going to do a second scene from Trap’s pov after all, only this time I’d start the moment when he returned to the palace. The dialog came in snatches throughout the day and I now have the scene pretty much sketched out. I may even call it – and chapter 11 – done for now.

Four days to take a big trip out there and back again, ending up pretty much in the place where I’d started. The first scene stays as it was, ends as it did, and the second scene is played out in Trap’s viewpoint. It’s just the content of that scene that's changed. Which seems amazing in light of the certainties I had yesterday of how wrong EVERYTHING was with it. And tells me again, how unreliable emotions can be. How easily they can go overboard... It's good to take note of them, and even act upon them, but don't take them all that seriously.