War Zone

Good grief. Is it really a month since my last update? Well, progress continues. Even when I’m not in the mood or I feel stuck, I have made a point of writing every day. Sometimes it’s as little as a sentence or two; sometimes it’s several pages. At this point it’s less about the flow than about keeping the pipes from freezing. Result: I’m moving slowly, but chapter six is past the midpoint.

This is where the story picks up. To now it’s been exposition; we’ve met the characters, gotten a feel for the scene, and had a taste of the mysteries and perils at play. Here is where it starts to gel; the stakes are defined, people begin to make decisions, and we start to explore just what’s going on in this picture.

As part of that process I find myself dumping exposition through dialog with a new character, to bring the story to date into focus and give it a jumping-off point. When I came to the scene, I didn’t realize what was happening; I just had it in my head as a turning point where the characters began to accept a call to action. In retrospect this scene is what the story needs to build its own momentum.

I’m amazed when I touch, and then pass, these far-off milestones. As ever, things don’t always happen exactly the way that I envisioned them — but then my vision is always a little hazy in the particulars. It’s intimidating to approach these moments — plot points, character points — that I have planned for so long. As with so many of my plans, some part of me never thought they were real; I figured I would roll them around in my head forever. I would keep laying them out on notebook pages, drawing lines, filling in blanks. Now the story has washed up and begun to absorb them.

Another thought, while I’m here: I spend ages laboring over my word choices. Each word has its own nuance, each phrase its rhythm, and I beat myself up a little when they don’t flow the way I want. As I write it, then, each page, each conversation seems to go on forever. If you look at my notebook, it’s all scribbles and arrows and notes in the margin. Then when I read the printed page, it’s just… there. The words come and they go, and none of that work really shows. I feel like if I want to get any meaning across I’ll have to resort to all-caps or novelty typefaces.

Maybe that subtlety is a strength. I don’t know. It could mean hidden layers for readers to uncover the third or fourth time through, or it could just mean that the story isn’t communicating anything. I’m trying not to be too obvious, but I do intend my points to come across.

It’s a puzzlement. We’ll see how it hangs together when there’s more to go over.