I’m currently in a position where there’s no work to be done on the novel I’ve been polishing for the past year. Waiting to hear from others who have to read a lot of words first, so what do I do in the meantime?
For one thing, I’m catching up on my reading by picking up Elizabeth Moon’s new novel, Limits of Power. For another, I’m getting some serious yard work done. But mostly, I’m plotting the next novel.
At the risk of ruining my gardening metaphor from a while back, I have to say that new novel ideas are like weeds. They take root at the most inconvenient times and places. They worm their roots down deep in an insidious fashion. And if you’re not careful, they can take over completely.
I’m in the grips of a novel idea that has currently taken over my thoughts completely. I’m always thinking about the characters I’ve invented and am still fleshing out. While I ride the mower around our 3 acres, I wonder about the magic system I’m developing and whether it will make sense. I find myself obsessing over little details I don’t know, like how to properly describe an important coastal rock formation that I’ve imagined based on a photo someone posted taken near Almograve, Portugal. And yes, even though what I’ve imagined looks significantly different from the photo, I want to know the geology of the rocks in the photo, because I want to make sure my imagined rock formation makes sense geologically.
For that matter, does anyone know of minerals that, when ingested, might affect skin color? I suspect I’ll just have to come up with a magical explanation for that, but you never know.
My point is, right now, I’m totally involved in the idea of this new project. I have a high concept plot, characters that I think are developing pretty well and who will make the novel compelling and interesting, and a setting I’m totally in love with. (Also, it gives me a good excuse for a short “research” trip to Lake Michigan, which is always a welcome thing.) And I love this feeling. I love eating, breathing, sleeping, dreaming, my novel.
But I know that at some point, I’m going to hate it. Maybe when I discover a huge hole in my plot–or, as my friend Laura describes it, “a plot twist not even the writer saw coming”. Maybe when it really hits home that by having one of my main characters born almost entirely deaf, I am setting myself up for even more difficulty than usual–because while I suffer from tinnitus, I am very far from deaf, so I have a whole lot of research to do, and a lot more sensitivity than usual to practice. Or maybe it’s just when I reach that dreaded middle quagmire, when I’m trying to slog through the “we need this in order to get to the climax, but by golly this is rough going” portion of the story. (Neil Gaiman’s NaNoWriMo pep talk on that last phenomenon has kept me going through that middle quagmire on more than one novel.)
But for now, I’m going to relish this feeling of reckless obsession and jubilant imagination. After all, this is one of the highs of being a writer.