Excuses, Excuses…

July 9, 2009 at 1:30 am (Uncategorized)

Bad blogger, disobedient DoctorDi. No post on Monday, and no post yesterday, either. The only thing keeping me from the naughty corner is Alzheimer’s. How has it come to this?

Well, Monday I continued rekeying my manuscript. This was VR’s idea, and I immediately warmed to it: retyping the manuscript from start to finish. It’s funny what such a mundane task manages to bring into sharp relief… one of the key benefits I’ve discovered so far is its way of highlighting attribution issues. Often times it should be the main character speaking, but in past drafts I’ve attributed key comments and concepts to her love interest, which creates a kind of psychological imbalance where you think, hang on, whose story is this? Why isn’t our narrator in the driver’s seat? As I said to the Darklings the other day, it feels like that character, the illustrator, whose role grew and grew with each new draft, was actually my guide into the story, he flashed the torchlight and went on ahead into the gloom, but what that meant for a very long time was that I, as the writer, began unconsciously perceiving him as the agent of change, whereas it’s critical, it’s the whole point of the book, that that role unquestionably belongs to the narrator. It changes everything. So I was just brain fried Monday once I realised all this; the implications are huge, and by extension, so is my workload. But hey, this is the process. And it’s great having core realisations like this one, however belatedly they’ve come to me. It makes it much easier regarding each scene from a critical distance and asking, “What is happening, who is it happening to, why is it important to my heroine’s story?” The rekeying is definitely helping with that. It would not have occurred to me in a million years to do it, but it’s just one of VR’s many helpful hints that has also immediately paid dividends. You may find it doesn’t work for you, everyone’s different, but I figure it’s always worth a shot.

Yesterday I didn’t post for three reasons: I was doing more comic research, I went down to Wollongong (a.k.a. ‘the Gong’) to see Darkling C, and I met up with Llew upon my return to Sydney and we had much to discuss. So I hope you’ll forgive my terrible slackness. Darkling C was having some of those awful, soul-destroying doubts about being the best person for the job of telling her particular story (and she has a very clear, gripping story, a really top idea, so I honestly thought she’d be exempt from some of these anxieties, because her fossil has always seemed all but glass-mounted and ready for public display), so I hopped a train to the Gong, read my research text the whole way there and back (EERIE PARALLELS abound, which is great… I think…), delivered Crisis Cupcakes (store bought, I’m afraid) into C’s feverish hands, and spent the afternoon hanging out in her hood. We met C’s friend K and K’s two cutie-pie kids down by the water for a coffee, spending much of the time shooing aggressive, beady-eyed seagulls away from the kids’ bucket of hot chips, then C and I wandered north along the waterfront – a very picturesque quarter of the Gong, pelicans gliding across the water, children frolicking – to a great little cafe called Diggies. They have a lovely covered deck overlooking Main Beach, and we settled in for lunch (lamb, roast pumpkin, mint yoghurt etc. salad for C, Haloumi and lentil salad for me), a glass of wine and a catch up.

As we ate and nattered, storm clouds steadily built, darkened, and grew near. A long shadow fell over the deck. I glanced behind me and realised it was coming our way, so we hastened back to the car and got back to C’s apartment just in time. There was only one thing to do in such circumstances, and that was have another glass of wine, although I don’t usually drink in the middle of the day, and the glass at the restaurant went straight to my head. Boy. A good time to get an honest answer out of me, to say the least. Unfortunately I can’t solve C’s crisis of confidence for her. All I could do yesterday was reassure her that it is a plague that touches us all, and that if she knows she’ll never be able to walk away and let the idea rest (because some people really aren’t cut out for it, and I’m not into encouraging people to stick with something they really don’t want to do), then, well, she should just get on with it. The only way to escape a story you really feel compelled to write is to write it. Part of my dedication to the task comes down to a fervent desire to move on, and because I know I can’t abandon it, I won’t be free until it’s done. I have very little choice, in other words, but to go back into its pages and try to fix what’s wrong. Doing this is my ticket out of there, my leave pass to go and write something else. To leave my narrator and her beloved illustrator behind, and to train his recovered torch on the only way out.

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8 Comments

  1. charlotteotter said,

    DoctorDi’s Writer Rescue Service! How amazing to have such a vibrant and caring community of writers.

    And the lamb sounded delicious.

  2. piereth said,

    Di, I love the idea of your going through your MS and re-attributing key concepts – it makes me think of a vast puppeteer re-manoeuvreing her dolls to perform the show more clearly for the audience. I know you mentioned Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ the other day – what a great book. It’s done more for my writing, poor as it is, than any other book I can think of.

  3. Grad said,

    I honestly don’t know how writers do it. When I’m just trying to write something for my sad little blog, I can’t focus on too much else until I get what I have to say said. I’m not certain I could do it day in and day out and still remember to feed the dog. But I’m grateful others can and do. Oh, and please pass the roasted pumpkin.

  4. Lilian Nattel said,

    Crisis cupcakes definitely excuse you from blogging. It sounds like important insights came with re-keying. Don’t worry about the belatedness. I think that is part of the normal process.

  5. Catherine said,

    It really is DoctorDi to the rescue sometimes. How lucky I am to have such a knowledgeable shoulder to cry on. Of course, she’s brutally honest too – I believe ‘suck it up’ was the kick in the pants I needed. There are two things I know for sure – I will finish this bloody story if it kills me, and the roast lamb and pumpkin salad at Diggies is close to my favourite lunch dish ever.

    C xx

  6. doctordi said,

    I think, ladies, although you’re all saying such lovely things, it’s just the writerly code. God knows C has done the same for me more times than I can count, and we haven’t even known each other a year. The Darkling code certainly demands a drop-everything response, it’s part of what we all gladly do for each other, but I do think it’s something a lot of writers do for other writers. Because let’s face it, it gets kind of lonely, and it’s easy to lose sight of what the hell you’re even trying to achieve. But yes, Catherine had the order of the day! I was checking out her lunch instead of eating my own. Lentils?! What was I *thinking*??!!

  7. Pete said,

    It does sound very exciting (if laborious) work and a lot better than house-buying admin. Crisis cupcakes, the lamb, the wine, the storm and so on – the process of writing this novel is a story in its own right. Holding thumbs for the rewrite (or rekey).

  8. doctordi said,

    Pete, it’s both! First the rekey, then the rewrite. But you’re right, the process is definitely taking on epic proportions!

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