Let it bubble

One of the reasons I haven’t been ripping through this draft of The Swan Harp at lightspeed is that this is the one where I’m putting in subplots and dealing with the excellent suggestions that I had from the agent who read my second draft. In a page and a half of comments she cut out quite a bit of work for me. This led to my cutting up the story and pasting it together differently, which I called the Frankenstein draft.
When I hit a serious pothole this summer and began to panic about the amount of work there still was to do and whether I’d ever get it untangled, I had a couple of other good suggestions from friends who read the Frankenstein draft While these suggestions ultimately got me started again, they were also quite a bit of work, in part because “you need to create an incident where…” was part of the suggestion.
The thing about a well-written book is that it looks like it flowed unimpeded from the author’s imagination to the page. This is good. It’s also an illusion, as I know, because there have been lots of impediments to the completion of this third draft. “Creating an incident where….” was a huge pothole. I knew where my character was, and where I wanted her to be, but I wasn’t sure how to get her there. My initial solution was too easy, and also not true to the values of my world.
Knowing that and solving it are two different things. What I had to do – and believe me, this wasn’t easy! – was leave the idea to bubble gently on the back burner like a pot of soup. I tried not to worry at the problem or think about it much – instead I worked on other things in the story and just left a hole where that incident would have to go. (That in itself was harder than it sounds, because much of the story is still in the rearrangement process, so holes tend to move.)
In the last week the critical incident has come to me in bits and pieces. Part of it was due to the new job, where my coach is a guy who is in the Society for Creative Anachronism. The SCA is a recreationist group – members re-imagine parts of the Middle Ages and re-create them more-or-less authentically, but with only the fun bits left in. Yes, it’s a game, but like any game, it’s quite serious about the rules.
Talking to Dan reminded me of my own time in the SCA, and everything I learned about fighting, tactics, leadership, strategy and so on. These are all things my character needs to know. I’d forgotten I knew them, and thinking about them led me to the incident I needed to write. It was the last ingredient in that bubbling pot. This week or next I’ll frame and draft that incident and the things around it, and I’ll be through one more roadblock on the way to finishing this draft.
I once heard someone say in an interview that when she came home from work, the first thing she did was cut up an onion and put it in a frying pan on low heat. Her family would patiently wait two hours for supper if they could smell that something was happening in the kitchen. Patience is a hard lesson for me, but knowing that the bubbling pot is there, and that it will eventually produce something, helps a lot.

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This entry was posted in Doing the Work, Fumbling towards competence and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Let it bubble

  1. Francene Stanley says:

    Love it. So true. All of it.

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