Friday, March 11, 2011

Getting Lost in the Story

I was moved to meditate today, as I sat playing my fifth consecutive losing game of spider solitaire, that fiction writers as they go along experience their work at many different depths.

As usual, I'm working on something. I have an outline, more or less, I have some interesting characters who are energetically interacting, but I can still bounce out of the work and dither around losing at solitaire when I'm supposed to be writing. Now, you may say, "Get with it, you're a professional writer, do your job," but if I wanted that sort of grinding work I'd still be writing software manuals. Or, no, I wouldn't, everyone at the company where I used to work was under thirty years old, I couldn't have stood it much longer in any case, but it would be pretty to think so. The money was good.

The book--I won't mention the title, it's sort of a hip modern title, and I don't want to see it on another writer's book--is coming along nicely. I have ten thousand words up, nice words, most of them, and I'm expecting to finish the first draft in maybe six weeks. But I haven't fallen into it yet.

It's possible to get very deeply lost in your own story, to forget appointments, to forget what day of the week it is. It's possible to be walking down the street thinking about your story and to step into traffic. I always thought Daphne du Maurier's The House on the Strand was a metaphor for that sort of thing. For those of you who haven't read it, it's about a man who takes a drug that transports him into the past, where he can wander around and view events, though his body is wandering mindlessly, possibly in traffic, in the present. You should read it. It's excellent.

And you should read my book too. But first I have to write it. And before I do I have to play several more games of solitaire, after which I will consult my outline and devise some thrilling scenes. Soon, within days, maybe, I'll be in the zone. Then I'll finish it. Then my agent will sell it, and then...

--Kate Gallison

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