I know I’ve said this before, but here it is again: every writer finds a process that works for *that writer*. Then writers try to describe their processes to normal humans who don’t write, and use metaphors and analogies and make funny faces and gesture with their hands, and say “It’s like….” a lot. And mostly, in my experience, the normal humans continue to look baffled and want to know more, and we end up saying “Take a piece of paper or open a file on your computer and just start. Either something will happen or it won’t.”
A story makes demands (on time, on attention, on hip joints and knee joints and especially necks, shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers including especially whichever thumb you use most to hit the space bar.) It also makes demands on cognitive capacity (processing speed and the mental equivalent of RAM) and psychological flexibility and ethics, sometimes in peculiar ways. My books seem to aim not just at readers, but at me. There’s a point in every book where I’m writing rapidly, a scene unfolds, and there it is on paper or on screen, and I’m checking to be sure my hands didn’t slip off home row and make it look like suat w8in O t8j8hgl. (Which they do now and then.) And when I read the words that were flowing through from brain to fingers-that-typed, they strike me in the chest, command me to compare those words and myself. Sometimes it happens several times in the course of one book. It’s like someone smacked me on the back of the head and said “Pay attention, doofus!” And yes, NewBook has done that in the past few weeks. More than once.
Part of that is the environment of this Year 2020. It is not a year we can just slide through as if it were normal and the days roll by and the seasons are the familiar seasons and the people are the familiar people we don’t have to *think* about because we already know the butcher, the baker, the sushi maker and they’ve become familiar silhouettes in our lives. So, in a normal year, are ourselves. We know who we are. We do the things we do, like the things we like, life is just padiddling along, some harder than others, some easier, but there’s that sameness. And there are marker years–years where we know we’re changing. And then there are years like this one. And the book (if you’re writing one) and the year (whatever you’re doing) yank you up by the ears or the hair and smack you on the head and say “PAY ATTENTION! CHANGE HERE! EVERYBODY CHANGE!”
The book, having been headed steadily in one direction, with some possible branches that folded back into the main storyline, hit some fault line or something and stopped, looked me in the face and said “We have to talk.” The dread “We have to talk.” And I, wincing, said “Sure, go ahead.” And the book said “There’s this other thing that belongs here and means that what you wrote back there–and I’m not saying it’s bad; it’s actually quite good–but it’s not MY stuff. It’s some other book’s stuff.” And I tried “I think you’re mistaken,” and “No, it does belong here” and some phrases stronger, and the book sat down in the middle of the now dry and dusty mental road, like a cartoon donkey plopping its rump in the dust and said “No.” A drink of water? “No.” That expensive alfalfa hay? “No.” Carrots? “No. Get this big blob of words off my back so I can stand up and move.” But every Vatta book has had more about this and that (that are in that blob of words.) “No.” You’re killin’ me, NewBook. You’re acting weird. “No. You’re being lazy.”
So there’s an entire subplot *already written and in the total wordage I was feeling so happy about* that’s coming out. If I am granted another year or so to write a book after this, it will probably (but not certainly because CHANGE, EVERYBODY CHANGE is definitely in the air) what happened next for Benny Quindlan and Stella will be in it. (Hint: he changes.) Instead, we’re getting a replacement blob of words about other people who just wanted a chance to come home . NewBook is happier. In my mind, books can get into conversations with each other…books I’ve read or am reading now…and also with a book I’m writing. When a book in progress pushes me to re-read someone else’s book and then gets into conversation with it or its writer, then the book I’m working on is alive and healthy.
Meanwhile Rafe and Ky finally get their longed-for vacation together, privacy and peace and quiet….but now there’s a body on the train tracks before their vacation is three days old and Ky is asked to change course again. If 2020 would get out of my way this would go better, but it won’t, for any of us, so…if there’s a bump under your personal train of life, I hope it’s not a body, because (personal experience) that does delay a journey. Or a live fire situation, because so does that (also personal experience.) Be as safe as you can be, but…when the situation demands change, do it. (I think I mean all that, but I’m getting older and stiffer, so the decisions on when to change and how are up to you.)