The other day, I woke to my alarm for the first time in months. By some miracle, it was 5:30 a.m., but Baba was still asleep in her crib, contently dreaming about whatever it is that babies dream about. I stumbled to the bathroom to start my morning rituals with the sweet luxury of not having to rush.
Then, about the time that my toothbrush swirled around my bottom left molars, I realized that my mind was in medieval Iceland, with the characters of my first novel. It was as dark there as it was outside my window, but the scene was more desperate. It was one of the pivotal nights of my protagonist’s life and I could feel, from my toothbrush down to my elbow, the angry energy in her arm.
Aha! I thought. Now I can go on with that.
Perhaps it is just my curse that I always want to work on the project that I’m not currently working on. Writing is a practice; the more that I do it, the more my creative ideas flow. Working on any project inevitably spurs ideas for the projects I have on the backburner, which makes focus difficult. Inspiration hits wherever and whenever it will. Holding onto the ideas that it generates until you have time to actually do something about it is the harder part.
I am traditionally a seat-of-pantser, but that hasn’t worked out well for me on novel-length works, because I tend to write myself into corners that don’t resolve neatly (or, in the case of this novel, at all). I paused in the writing of my Iceland novel, nearly two years ago, to go off and study more formally, in the hopes that I could come back to it with the skills I needed to let me take the project where I want it to go. Now that I’ve added another degree to my file cabinet, I want to put those new lessons into practice.
So for now, I am working out more details the plot, and enjoying visiting with the characters that have lived in my brain for such a long time. My main focus is still on revision and submission of my short fiction portfolio, which is teaching me about the literary journal and web magazine market. (My favorite discovery so far: publications that want you to give away your work and tip the editors for the privilege of reading — and likely rejecting — your stories. I apparently do not want to be published that badly.) I had a goal of submitting two different stories to five different publications by the end of August, which I am right on track for meeting. And yet, my fingers itch to go back to Iceland and continue seat-of-pantsing. There will be a full drafted outline before I let myself go there again, because the last thing I want to do is write another 150,000 words of character development.
And yet, it couldn’t hurt to write just one scene, could it? Just one?