I cracked my word count wide open tonight and pulled a few threads of things back from the dark places in which they’d settled. I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, with a word goal set at 40k for the month in the hopes to complete the first draft by May 1st. I’m already in the thick of it. The incentive is there. It’s time to end it.
The problem with novel writing is that there are constantly a bunch of things you need to keep warm on a back burner someplace in your brain or you forget all about they whys and the wherefores and its easy to get lost. I sometimes forget why I’m doing this — writing this book — on the particularly hard days when it’s not going well and that little voice of self-doubt says the work is only a mix of vanity and self-flagellation and my time could be better spent actually living life instead of imagining someone else’s.
On the days when things lace together and a story emerges from the muddle of shit that sits in my Scrivener app, it validates every ounce of suffering and self-inflicted torment and self-doubt, and smashes all that dark stuff down. It shoves a bunch of purpose into life that was roped off from me. It lasts a moment, then you’re back in the pit and beating the hell out of a bunch of flat telling words that mean nothing and convey less about the characters’ desires.
On those days I forget that it took five passes to get the good stuff right. Conveniently.
The passage is not always easy
Reading about my writer friends when they struggle makes me squeamish, so I try to abstain from complaining about it on the blog (too often. I certainly don’t want to exacerbate anyone else’s frustration by emotionally dumping.) I want you to remember that victories are often offset by defeats, and darkness makes the light brighter, and if you write, you’re not so alone because we all slog through sometimes. In our heart of hearts, I think we know that we love this, but the passage is not always easy. I’ve learned to make harried notes to account for everything I forget, and I go back to them when I start feeling desperate. The flame on my back burner likes to gutter, and while the pot never goes cold, it sure as hell drops to luke warm from time to time. It’s a horrible feeling. Absolutely awful. I lose hope. I feel like my dreams are slowly getting crushed under to-do lists and deadlines and the four hours that are mine every evening are never enough to do what I love.
I want it every day. Every glimmering second. I have so many stories, and it feels like I never have enough time to record them the way I want. (And darker still, I will die and never be able to share them. They will pass on with me into that bleak holding tank before the next life and never help the people I wrote them for. There’s some dark humour in there, because Wake is about death, and forgetting, and remembering, and reclaiming in a lot of ways. It’s about being broken down and putting things back together. It’s a dark little book, but that’s the place I live, and I reiterate: you don’t get the sweet without knowing the sour.)
Sometimes I stumble into something I’d forgotten I’d written when feeling overzealous and trying to clean up piles of pithy one-liners that will find a place in this book goddamnit if it kills me. I found a whole chunk in a folder I’d forgotten called “Blog Posts” — some long dead hunk of poetic waxing written right when I’d started working on Wake.
I’d like to share it with you, because it makes my teeth vibrate with joy because I remember why the hell I started this thing in the first place:
I did it for the goddamn monsters.[divider line_type=”Small Line” custom_height=””]
In the process of plotting out the first draft, I’ve been nudging things around and aside to better distill the idea. I’ve been asked a couple of times what the book is about, and I want to start giving a better answer than: the end of the world. “The end of the world,” means a lot of things to me, rather than just straightforward desolation or the even simpler, “KABOOM.” It means a combination of life, death, struggle, failure, memory, sacrifice, folklore, magic, and fate. Or, in the Donny Darko sense, the end of life. Or, in the very least, the absence of free will when arriving at that point on the path when reality caves in and we’re left to deal with the fallout, teetering on the edge and what lies beyond it.
I’m not interested in linear narratives: this is ironic, because the overarching anchor to the three books in the series that are needed to tell the tale from start to finish is the word, “sequence.” This doesn’t, however, refer to the fact that the story should be told in any sort of straightforward manner because the lives of the characters involved and their entanglement springs from a decision, backed by five centuries worth of blundering on the part of a man I’ve come to know (mostly from his ongoing, Sherry-soaked diatribes) as Cicero.
In my notebook, in reference to this, is the following:
“One instance wakes the dead.”
That one moment , made erroneously by a grizzled man from antiquity, shapes the stories that spill out from this bleeding heart of a center-point. I can’t refer to those particular stories as “lives” as some of the characters have already expired.
The lines that divide reality and the stirring shades that are just out of reach are fairly thin, and what it means to be dead is questionable.
I’m trying to pinpoint how to best describe the hollow places in the world and the creatures that inhabit them: the stuff of nightmares, as Joss pointed out in Cabin in the Woods. The book should answer the question, if I’m successful: “What if they were real?”
The currency I’m dealing in is monsters:
Things that tumble forth from a haunted imagination; the bloodthirsty and betrayed, relics of former things that cobble themselves together in piecemeal fashion to ensure that parts A and B will at some point work together if wired correctly. Some are Frankenstein’s creations, knit together with words as much as sinew; folklore be damned. The sort of things that you try not to reach for in darkness in the midst of a struggle to find a lightswitch that are only found when the tips of your fingers graze sunken flesh and the wet heat of fangs you can’t quite see. Nonetheless, you know they’re there, and you know, on some level, that they’ll make a meal of you.
And beyond that… the worst kind of creation, blessed with agency and freedom to act against each other: The sort of monster that some of us are misfortunate enough to find when we look in the mirror.
That’s usually the point in the explanation where I get too excited about the possibilities.
At its core, there’s something else that removes the story from the squick and squelch. This book is not about the horror of the undead, about zombies or gore; but about the persistence of memory and what keeps our loved ones nearest to us after they’ve gone:
Love, above and beyond all else — love is the thing that grants immortality.