Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Insomnia has Repercussions

Insomnia has set in, so I've put research on hold for awhile. My insomnia is a direct result of the brain not shutting off and the brain not shutting off is a direct result of having too much in it, so I have to write a certain amount out before I can expect to sleep again.

The trouble is that I need to answer certain research questions, or be sure they have no answers, before I write the next bit. So I skipped to a bit I knew enough to write. This is not my normal way to proceed, on anything. If I don't do things systematically I don't get them done at all. Besides, as I write my way through a plot elements, characters, and themes emerge organically. I have no idea how this change in procedure is going to affect that.

However, I'm going to be at the historical portion of this year's TAS field school dig starting 7 AM on the 12th. I must be rested and properly overprepared for that. So writing ahead is my only option. And after all, it's not unusual for one of those elements, characters, or themes to emerge later in a book than it should have, and require me to fold back the story and make room for it in an earlier scene.

I've worked out the progress of the plot and have the firmest bits marked on the timeline - which is another new elements. It's not unusual, in the revision process, to have to work out a timeline to make sure events are consistent with one another, but I've never had to do one ahead of time before. I have things like historical events, phases of the moon, holidays, days of the week, and chores traditionally associated with each day plotted in black, all the way back to the year of Len's birth, and the story events are in red. I may have to plot the actions of Bad Guys in blue, but it hasn't come to that yet.

I'm pretty fussy about research details but I've never felt the need for this degree of structure in the process before; not even in the time travel story that I told in objective chronological order back in the 80s. (No, you can't see it - not enough of it survives. But I did have a complete manuscript at one point - when I start on an impractical idea, I carry it through, goldurn it!) The difference is the necessity to intersect with real people. It doesn't make any sense to make an imaginary analog to Castroville just so I don't have to worry about who Len reports the murder to or whether I'm putting a bandit lair on somebody's great-grandpa's land. And the whole concept of the story hinges on its happening during this particular chaotic historical interval, the small personal concerns of Len and Di playing out during this period when no one was in charge, when we'd lost but Texas hadn't surrendered, when no one knew what "free" meant. The excess rigor in the research is necessary to render the chaos tangible.

It also frees me up to be looser in the actual writing, however. I've had to work out the plot in more detail than I normally would; which means I can move to any point in it and be reasonably sure I know what's going on and won't have to rewrite the whole thing later because of elements discovered when writing the preceding scene. I'll have to watch my transitions with special care, and I'll almost certainly have to rewrite some dialog and introspections; but that's just revision. I can do that.

Thinking about this new method of writing has also made me realize a basic conflict between Len's and Di's world views. Di is a planner. She doesn't like to make a move until she knows the next three moves after that. Len doesn't plan until a contingency arises; but she's always alert to pounce on the contingency, and she assumes that because she has to do something, she can. As a result - Di worries and Len doesn't; Di is a pessimist, Len an optimist. Since it looks like the plot is going to have to resolve in even fewer days than I originally planned on, it's important for me to set the tone of that conflict from the moment Len first sets eyes on her and has to explain that her father is dead. I normally write like Len. This book, I'll have to write like Di. But I'm writing from Len's point of view.

It's kind of exciting. I wonder how I'll do! And if I can do enough of it to get rested before the next infodump starts on the 12th.

No comments:

Post a Comment