I’ve made it a goal to write 1,500 words a day on my new novel.
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Back in my journalism days I often wrote more than that in a day so really, what’s the big deal?
Except, I don’t have a notepad full of facts before me or hours of interviews. I have to make it up as I go along.
And sooner or later, no matter how I plan or chart out my book, my characters are going to take over. They’re going to decide to go one way when I want them to go another, to be attracted to one person when I really need (want?) them to be attracted to someone else. They’re going to fight and balk and reveal tendencies that I had no idea they possessed.
Writing a book is kind of like parenting teenagers. You never know, from day-to-day, what moods or conflicts or stubbornness will surface.
For instance, I wanted the main character, Winter, to be a runner. She isn’t. She’s a swimmer (try as I might, she just did not want to run). And the mother, who is dead but reappears in memory segments, isn’t the New Age hippie I wanted her to be. She’s somewhat hippie but also girly and soft. And she doesn’t die the way I wanted her to die, either.
Sometimes I wonder: Who is writing this book? Me, or someone else? Is it possible that we’re able to pick up other people’s thoughts and dreams as we move about our day and then, at night (or in the morning) when we sit down to write, these tangle with our own thoughts, our own ideas, until our writing becomes more of a universal brainstorming?
There is so much about our brains that we don’t understand. Often I read over what I’ve written the next day and I think, I wrote that? I’m not sure where these words come from. Are they mine? Part of the collective world? Or, wait, wait! Maybe we are all pawns, part of a virtual reality game of some other universe far, far superior than ours, and when we write, this other being (so far advanced that it looks down on us with pity and tenderness) is channeling our thoughts.
It’s maddening, isn’t it? Yet, I keep doing it. I keep sitting my ass down each night and creating other worlds, other situations, other people. (And what happens to your characters after you finish writing a book? Is it their end? Or do they still exist somewhere else, in some alternative universe, going about their lives, growing up, getting married or divorced, facing conflicts and life lessons? Does writing a character somehow bring it to life?)
I can’t allow myself to think too much. It’s too dangerous. Which is why I run so damned much, why I hike and walk the beach.
Last week we took a walk on the sand dunes out by Kincaid Park. There’s a dead whale washed up on the beach there now, but back then that poor dead thing was still bobbing around Cook Inlet, riding the tides in its graveyard glory. I’d see it sometimes as I was running, a large black speck out there, too far to make out what it was.
“I’ll bet that’s a whale,” I’d say to my partner.
“Probably a buoy,” he’d say.
Unfortunately, I was right. So these are slices of a day before the dead whale washed up, before I began struggling with my obstinate characters in my obstinate novel, and before the rains came and blotted out the sun for over a week.