Sunday, November 10, 2013

Charade's Skeleton Gets Connected!

Natalie Goldberg wrote a self-help book for writers called Writing Down the Bones. I have it on my bookshelf and have read it numerous times for inspiration and practical pointers.

It occurred to me that "writing down the bones" is a great metaphor for getting the first draft of a novel down on paper. Yesterday I wrote all the way to the end of Charade, completing over 60,000 words. With 10,000 words, give or take, left to write I'll start back at Chapter 1 polishing and rewriting what I've already written.

During the editing process I'll find connections I failed to notice during the skeletal phase of the writing. I'll be able to link these connections in more obvious ways so the reader catches them too. For instance, I might find a reference to Valentines Day in Chapter One and notice a connection in say, Chapter 10. I'll make this subtle link more obvious, so the reader might have an ah-ha moment remembering the earlier reference.

In my writing, not all these links are intended during the creative process. Much of the time they're accidental references that, when made more robust, give the reader a nice little jolt of remembrance and insight into the larger plot. It's the place in a novel when you might say, "I wondered why Star said that in the first chapter. Okay, now I get it. That's clever."

What a rush to read through the entire first draft of the novel! Creating the flow of the plot, being aware of the story arc and finding the right words challenges any writer and involves a large amount of hard work. Editing, on the other hand, becomes a wild and crazy scavenger hunt for missing descriptions, opportunities to improve the build up to a crisis and work with weak characterizations. It's exciting stuff and much more fun than staring at a blank page and fearing no words will emerge to fill it.

Yesterday when I noticed I'd reached the magical 60,000 words at just the right place and time for the characters, I jumped up, ran out to the garage, where my husband stood with greasy hands shoved inside the guts of an antique motorcycle he's restoring for one of his clients, and did a little happy dance to mark the successfully constructed "skeleton." I love those moments when I reach a personally-designed hallmark in my work and feel like celebrating. That's the real joy of the creative process.

Now, it's time to put flesh, running shorts and track shoes on the bones and sprint toward the finish line. It's good to have you as an audience along the way cheering, yelling, and offering Gatorade. I treasure your loyal support!

Today's Tidbit: "I am a rock, I am an island." NOT!

Celebrate whenever, wherever you get the chance,

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