November 1st, 2006

Not the January 6 Kind *

My life is filled with epiphanies large and small. (How small, you ask? Here’s a favorite: one day I was thinking about coleslaw. [I was surprised, too. I don’t even really like coleslaw.] And it occurred to me that the German word for cabbage is Kohl. Kohl-slaw. Cole-slaw. WOW! [Please be as amazed as I was. It’s kinda cool. Honest.])




Epiphanies really work for me. I love the blinding flash of light and the bright, brassy chords that accompany them. I love the feeling that I’ve taken a leap forward without moving a single inch, and I love the sensation of a veil being tugged away from my face, leaving me with a clearer view than I’d had any right to anticipate.


But getting there isn’t easy.  (And sometimes I don’t even want to make the trip.)


Yesterday, after a few days’ procrastination (some intentional and some un), I settled down with my juvenile fantasy manuscript and a big iced latte—not to continue my To The Marrow revision, but to reconsider the plot as a whole. The second half was pretty solid (or, at least, it would be when I finished marrowing), but the first half—which I’d just finished renovating—had very much the feel of introductory material. Half a book is, I suspected, a bit too much space for introductoring. And I wasn’t the only one who thought so. Sigh.


I pulled out my plot chart. I opened my notebook to some scrawls I’d made last week. I riffled through some plotting pages in a recently read book about writing. Then I took a big slug of coffee. All this material, all this input, and I had absolutely no idea what to do with my story. So I just started to scribble.


I could practically feel the epiphany beckoning to me. But I ignored its teasing, took another swig, and kept scribbling. Or, to be more accurate, hacking and rearranging.


My mind was totally open to the idea of new events in the plot, I swear. But the more I wrote, the more often it occurred to me—“Oh, and then that event from chapter 4 would be a perfect fit here, in the new chapter 2.” “Hey, if I switched the chronology of these events, that would totally explain the motivation for that character.” (I was open to not using everything from the old plot—but I really hate waste. So I have to admit that I was excited about the way recycling was working out.)


The epiphany part is my perspective on the modified plot. How was I able to use the major events of its previous incarnations—but make it so much tighter, so much faster-paced, and so much more intense? And why did it take me so long to make this leap? I don’t have the answers to those questions, but I’m hoping that I’ve maybe learned my lesson about risk-taking where plot is concerned—and to not worry so damn much about the waste. (I spend enough time telling other people that nothing is wasted, especially in writing, because everything you do will only benefit everything else you do. Too bad I have such a hard time telling the same thing to myself—and believing it!)


Don’t misunderstand: the new plot is only half-formed. I haven’t made any decisions about how the second half will play out, how it will be impacted by the changes in the first half. And while I’m feeling great about my decisions today, I have not yet started the actual re-writing, which will no doubt impact my mood. But for now I’ll just dig in and keep my eyes open for another epiphany. Whether or not I’m eager for the trip to get to it.


* Speaking of feast days—Happy All Saints’!