Do you ever buy something for your wardrobe–something off season, or for an event that later gets cancelled, or something tossed in with a purchase you were, at the time, more excited about–only to forget about it and then find it with surprise and pleasure and a certain self-satisfaction at your own cleverness in purchasing something so fabulous, so interesting, so precisely to your tastes?
That’s pretty much what going back to my novel feels like.
To be honest, I haven’t managed to write a word on it yet. I am still trying to pick up the threads of characterization and plot that I had dropped. That’s harder than I expected, so, note to self: don’t stop writing things anymore. Write till it’s done or write concurrently if something else demands your attention.
Despite knowing exactly what comes next, what is making going back in to write hard is the fact that I forgot how I staged certain key events leading up to this point. I think I forgot them because they weren’t the set pieces guiding this story from the beginning, and so when I picture the story in my mind they aren’t the parts I think of. But yet these fugue-state-written scenes absolutely affect everything the hero, at least, thinks and does for the rest of the novel.
Anyway, that complaint was a rather long aside to my real point here, which was how much I enjoyed those scenes simply from a reading standpoint. I read them with surprise and delight. The part of me that analyzes romances by other people and feels annoyed when the characters do things without fully articulated reasons (either told or shown) was nodding along, thinking, yes, this, exactly, it’s absolutely no wonder he does what he does in the end.
I also did a better job than I had expected with making what her brother is up to seem really dangerous and awful. One of my paranoias about my writing (and this stems from being aware of my
shortcomings–okay, I’ll use another word so as not to denigrate myself too harshly–proclivities as a human being) is the ability to evoke emotion in a reader. I am not a hugely emotional person. I mean, yes, obviously I experience the full range of human emotions, but most of the time I am pretty even-keeled, few things really enrage me or frighten me or make me so happy I forget where I am. I get annoyed or anxious or pleased…all the lesser cousins. And that’s fine. It’s who I am, and I am happy to be drama-free as a result. I don’t consider it a failing. But when I look back even at times of great distress or fear or anger, I generally wonder what I was so upset about. Once I am out of a situation, it is very difficult for me to find those emotions again. And so when I write, I have a tendency to rationalize the characters out of feeling strong emotions, because I so rarely do, and I know that is not realistic. So when I intentionally try and write about strong emotions, I feel like it’s constructed. I mean, it is constructed. The hope is that it feels natural to a reader, and the fear is that they will see the wizard’s feet sticking out from under the curtain.
So, I was really pleased that I felt truly horrified at what her brother was putting her through. I felt her fear. I felt the hero’s anger about it. I even felt the brother’s despair that was driving it. Yay! I did something right!
Reading back what I had written for a few weeks/months previous to dropping the project made me happy. I had to go back a lot further than I expected in the text, but that was fine. It just meant I had a little more reorienting to do before I could jump back in. But at least jumping back in feels like slipping on that fabulous pair of heels I bought for a party and never wore again. Until now.