This week got away from me. I thought about blogging on Thursday and Friday but I missed it. I have a good excuse though. I’ve been working on Flyboy. In my actual office even.
1. I started this week with seven chapters of a sloppy draft of Flyboy. The goal being to get all the main characters introduced and show a couple of flying scenes. Goal met.
2. It was a really, really sloppy draft. So much so that a couple of times I wanted to cry because I thought I had forgotten how to write. I recovered enough to realize I do know how to write but am still not sure I know how to write this story.
3. Began revising. Why now? Because I wanted to get this partial into shape enough to send to my agent.
4. This week I printed out what I had written. Made changes in hard copy. Input changes. Went through and let Word highlight all my typically overused words. I am now on Chapter Four excessive word use clean-up.
5. After I finish #4, hopefully in a few hours, I will print it all out and go through it one more time. Then I will have no excuses left and have to face the, (cue the music) dreaded synopsis.
6. Plant Kid is still whispering in my ear though. He told me he wants his own blog and I about had a heart attack.
Okay, so just about an hour or so ago I posted about not thinking about Plant Kid.
Well I take it back. I take it all back. My brain is racing now.
This morning I read this lovely post by
who is one of the truly good people fighting the good fight to take care of injured/orphaned wildlife. I am inspired by her (and her husband’s) dedication to their 24/7 job. She spoke of finding room for “just one more bird” who needed a little bit of help. That bird was a cowbird which is just a very interesting creature that I had been reading about last week doing some research for Plant Kid. I had never heard of it before (just learning about birds) and I tucked the name away as an interesting fact that I could maybe use. Then I read mirtlemist’s post and got a bit excited again about maybe using the research.
Then I told myself to quit reading blogs, go get a new cup of chai and the get back to the ESL projects.
As is my way I go to the patio door at my office and look out and what should I see?
Cowbirds! Four of them. I have NEVER seen them in the yard before. Ever.
Oh it is going to be so hard to get through June. I hope my subconscious continues to do some work for me.
Even when you don’t know where you are going with a book, sometimes the universe rewards your persistence with a bit of serendipity. Not in a big way, like having an actual plot, but in a small way where there are connections in a story that you know will mean something else, something big, later on. As soon as you figure it out.
Early today I was working on my character letters. I had one from Flyboy and one from Frankie but Plant Kid was being a little quiet. So then I started wondering about Mr. Mac and if there was some kind plant advice he could give Plant Kid that might help me out.
Like many writers, my brain is working on several levels at once. On some other level I remembered a recent discussion on my California Native Plants listserv about how botanists will sometime reclassify plants for one reason or another. (Can’t remember the details so this is more research for me.) Normally I don’t remember those sorts of notes on the list because heck, I can’t hardly ever remember the latin names, let alone the genus/nomenclature /etc. But this one stuck because it was about one of my favorite shrubs, Sambus Mexicana. (Why is it one of my favorites? Beautiful and huge wildlife value.)
Anyway, in an earlier letter conversation with plant kid he had asked me about his living situation and the response that evolved felt right and true to the path the story was taking. At that time I had illumination #1, what if . . . ? (Sorry, can’t tell you that. It would be a major spoiler.) When it came time to write another letter I had been thinking about him in school and wondering what he would be doing which led to illumination #2 (which I also can’t tell you but which is mentioned somewhat in a recent letter.)
Which leads me to illumination #3 and brings me back to the letter I was working on today and the advice from Mr. Mac. I was trying to figure out how or even if Mr. Mac would explain about reclassifying plants and suddenly my brain did the math: #1 + #2 + #3 = serendipity. They were all connected. In a small way. In a plant way. In an organic way. In a way that I believe will become a major thread in the story.
Personally, I don’t think I would have made these same connections if I weren’t doing the character letters. Yes, I might have made different connections but these are the connections that get me all fired up. I mean, I got those shivers you get when you know, and I mean KNOW, it’s a good idea.
Which leads me back to the title of the post.
Sometimes it just all comes together.
This weekend I did something I’ve never done before – I wrote the last scene in a book long before the end of the book was in sight.
It wasn’t intentional. I didn’t sit down and say wow, let’s write the last scene in the book because, heck, I don’t really even know what this book is about – yet. But I am continuing on my bit by bit method of writing these three stories at once by just trying to write a single scene every night before bed. Of late they have all been in the plant book and that’s okay. The character is very real to me and, I almost hesitate to say this, but I may have found his voice which goes a long way to bringing a book to life.
Friday night I knew I wanted to write a scene about the MC and a particular plant. So I did. And then I reread it, as is my habit before turning out the light and I realized that it was the very last scene in the book and suddenly I knew where I was headed. I have no idea how I’m going to get there but that’s okay, I have a goal for this kid.
Saturday night’s scene was prompting by watching my husband spend most of his Saturday pulling weeds in the yard. So I set the MC to pulling weeds. And in the process of writing the scene I had that wonderful experience where, before you can even get the words down, you can see the whole scene unfold in front of you. I gave him a simple task to do which set something else in motion which created a conflict that I needed but didn’t know how to orchastrate.
Sunday night’s scene was an apology that was not accepted.
I have no title for this book. I don’t even know if I have the main character’s name for sure and I’m not sure I know what his problem is or what he wants.
But I have scenes. And for now, that’s enough.
This year I decided to try something new – writing letters to characters in my current WIP and then allowing the characters to answer me, all via my blog. This has led to some interesting insights into the book and created opportunities in telling the story that may not have otherwise come to me. Sometimes it has been tricky writing and answering the letters without giving away the book but I think that part of the challenge has been fun.
While you can read any of the letters by clicking on my tag “character letters” I thought it would be fun to collect each character’s letters in one permapost in chronological order. Each time I post a new letter in my daily blog I will append it at the bottom of this page.
Here are the letters to and from Plant Kid.
January 21st, 2008 | 6:26 PM
Dear Main Character in the plant book that I am not supposed to be working on at all,
I can’t set an entire novel in your backyard, no matter who’s buried there. Do something, will you please?
January 24th, 2008 | 6:55 AM
Dear Word Person,
Do you have ANY idea how important Mr. Mac was to me? You don’t, do you? If you did you wouldn’t be trying to make me leave the yard. Mr. Mac was the only one who understood me. He didn’t care about my, well, you know. It didn’t matter to him. For someone who reads a lot of books you’re not very bright, are you?
Disgruntled and dirty character without a name to call his own
January 30th, 2008 | 7:21 AM
Dear Plant Kid,
Look, I’m really sorry about Mr. Mac dying. I had no idea that was going to happen until he walked in front of the garbage truck. You keep talking about that “thing” you have and I’m guessing its somewhere on your upper body since I’ve never seen you without your hoodie but I don’t know what it is. And if I don’t know what it is, how can I connect it to the plot line and deepen the theme? And if I don’t connect the plot dots, no one is ever going to get the chance to read your story anyway. And yes, you can have the poppies. All the poppies you want. But later. I’m not supposed to be working on you right now anyway. If you’re really bored, you can help Flyboy pack.
Author with too much time to think and not enough time to write
January 31st, 2008 | 7:43 AM
Dear Author Whom I Know in Her Heart Really Wants to be Working on my story,
I can’t tell you about my “thing” but maybe you should check the books on Mr. Mac’s nightstand. Under the plant books, there’s another one, a medical one. He’s got the pages bookmarked.
Kid with perpetually dirty fingernails
March 4th, 2008 | 7:06 AM
Dear Plant Kid,
You’re older than I thought. Hmmm. Not sure what that is going to do to things. But worms? Now I have to learn about worms? I’ll do it but you have to do something for me in return. As in, you have to DO SOMETHING other than plant plants and pull weeds.
March 5th, 2008 | 7:37 AM
Dear Author Who is Trying to Blame the Lack of Plot on Me,
I don’t know much about a lot of things, especially writing books, but here’s something Mr. Mac told me before he died. You’ve got to believe in things you can’t see before you see things you won’t believe. He was talking about gardening but I’m thinking it might work for telling stories too.
Here’s the thing about gardening. You plant the seeds, water them sometimes, ignore them othertimes (especially if they’re native plants) and then you wait. And while you’re waiting, there’s a whole lot of something going on under the ground, deep down in the dirt. Seeds are opening and roots are unfurling, stretching down deep toward the water table. Earthworms are churning the soil and tons little bugs and mites and tiny things we can’t see are doing just what nature intends them to do. But up top all you can see is dirt. Piles and piles of dirt and not a stick of nothing growing in it nowhere. It’d be easy to give up then and just roll out some plastic grass and call it a day. But if you’re the believing type, you just wait. And then you wait some more. And then one day you walk out and you see a lot of those seeds you plant have pushed their way up through the dirt just looking for the sunshine and blue sky. Some of them still wearing bits of the seed hull on their hat like a lopsided hat. And just like that, you have a garden.
So I’m thinking maybe plot is like that – there could be a whole lot of something going on under the surface of my story, you just need to plant the seeds.
March 11th, 2008 | 6:39 AM
Dear Plant Kid,
Nice entrance. How long do you think it will be before he starts speaking to you again?
And yes, I realize that you now have two, possibly three names, and that I am calling you by all of them at various times. I still like the first name best but there are several books already out with that character’s name as the title so it simply won’t work. If you don’t like my choices, why don’t you come up with something of your own?
Author with rocks in her head
March 12th, 2008 | 6:51 AM
Mr. Mac explained to me how sometimes people do things without thinking and then later, it turns out that they meant to do it all along. But it was their subconcious that got things started. I don’t know if that’s true for me because I didn’t even know Mr. Mac until I, well, until that first day when I just went ahead and did what someone paid me to do and then you know how THAT all turned out. I guess I could have said no but it didn’t look like it would be that big of a deal. And I needed the money.
Maybe I knew something was going to happen. Sort of like the way dogs can tell an earthquake is coming only they can’t tell the humans around them. So the dog starts acting all scared or goofy or something and the human hasn’t got a clue as to what’s going on. Maybe it was like that.
Or maybe it was just fate but Mr. Mac says believing in fate is for lazy folks who are afraid to dream.
PS – You think maybe you could tell me where I’m living because I see someone in the house with me but I sure as heck don’t know who she is.
PPS – Sarcasm isn’t going to change anything
March 14th, 2008 | 6:55 AM
Dear Plant Kid,
Sorry about the sarcasm but really, I had no idea you were going to do that so I was surprised at the way everything unfolded. As the author though, I have to admit to being secretly delighted that there is already so much conflict going on. It bodes well for the future of the book.
There’s going to be a HUGE fight over it, you know that, don’t you? And I don’t mean between you and MM. The town, especially that one neighbor, is going to fight it. You could make it an environmental issue but really, I think that’s been done enough times already and never in a spectacular fashion so it would be hard for me to interest
an editor in it from that angle. You need to find your own way.
Fate versus dreamers, an interesting concept. I always thought you were on the side of fate, at least until the recent events. Interesting how quickly you’ve switched to the other side. Does he really have that much influence over you? Why is that? What do you get from him that you don’t get from anywhere else?
You asked who you are living with and I have to tell you that right now, I’m not sure either. I think it may be your aunt. Maybe. I know you just moved there and the town is new to you.
What’s it like for you at school? Do you have any friends? Are you a good student? Tell me something that will surprise me about you.
Author who still doesn’t know what you really want
March 18th, 2008 | 7:19 AM
Dear Author Who Let Someone Intimidate Her Away From My Story,
You tell me to find my own way and when I do, you get mad. You shouldn’t talk about me. Not yet. You’re not ready. That much is obvious. Yes, plants are boring to some people. There’s so much that takes place underground and now you’ve let someone convince you that you don’t have the skills to bring my story to the surface.
Maybe I was wrong to trust you with it.
But here’s the thing, Mr. Mac says that sometimes we have to give people second and third chances. Sometimes even more chances than that because if you do that enough, well people will surprise you. But you have to believe they’re going to surprise you. If you don’t believe then it doesn’t matter if you tell my story or not.
March 19th, 2008 | 8:19 AM
Dear Plant kid,
You’re right and I’m wrong. There, does that make you feel better? I hate it when I give my power away and that’s exactly what I did. I am a social writer and I love LOVE LOVE talking about my books before they are actually books. I love to brainstorm and bounce things off of trusted friends. But the one thing I forget is that ideas are fragile and I need feedback that comes from a loving place.
I think part of the problem is that I don’t have anyone to talk to about your book or any of the other books I am working on. I’ve lost my brainstorming partners so except for talking to you here, there’s really no one else who wants to listen to me try on plots for size or help me figure our the motivation behind a certain character’s actions.
I know writing is a lonely business but I need to talk to some people about you sometimes, someone other than you.
You should know that I have been thinking about you lately and where you live. I think it’s your sister, a sister you hadn’t seen in a long time for some reason. And the house looks a lot like the one I grew up in. How do you feel about an attic bedroom?
Author grateful for second chances
March 24th, 2008 | 7:24 AM
Dear Insecure Author,
My sister? You know I think I remember my mom talking about a sister. They had a fight about something a long time ago, right after I was born and she went away and I stayed behind. I bet she wasn’t so thrilled to see me show up on her doorstep after mom died, was she?
I do like the attic bedroom. I like being able to open the window and reach right out and pluck an orange off the tree. I like the way the mourning doves gather on the roof of the garage and peck around at the scraps of bread I throw out for them. I’m not so crazy about the way the stairs go straight up and the railing is a little wobbly. I’m afraid I’m going to fall and land at the bottom of the stairs on that metal grate for the furnace.
I’m mostly okay just hanging out with Mr. Mac and learning from him but I’m thinking me and my sister don’t have a lot to say (except for when she’s yelling at me.) I could use a friend my own age. Think you could work on that for me? There’s this one kid at school, Benny, who seems okay. We worked together on the science project and he didn’t think my worms were stupid at all. There’s Alison too, but she’s a girl and I don’t want her to think I like her special like. Besides, her dad is the one with all those fancy roses so maybe I better not have much to do with her.
March 27th, 2008 | 6:23 AM
Dear Plant Kid,
I love writing about you and I love sharing plant knowledge but I really really need to know what you want. I have no title for your story, no names for most of the people in your story, no idea what your story is about and absolutely no idea what the point of the whole story is.
What do you want more than anything else in the world? Why can’t you have it? What’s getting in your way? What would happen if you got your deepest wish?
All the roses and oranges and friends and favors you do for Mr. Mac don’t amount to a hill of beans if you can’t make me want something for you.
Author moving you to the bottom of the list, for now
March 31th, 2008 | 6:17 AM
Dear Author With Too Many Ideas,
No problem, I understand. I’m composting right now.
April 4th, 2008 | 5:23 AM
Dear Plant Kid,
Your voice changed. You’re no longer the thoughtful, introspective kid I’ve been writing about and I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I’m trying not to think about it but I can’t help it. I noticed it a little in the Teaser Tuesday post and now I am wondering if there’s a smart aleck trying to get out. Oh gosh I hope not. I can’t do smart aleck. Not for a whole book. And I don’t see a smart aleck as being the nature nurturing soul that I thought you were.
Maybe it will be different once you’ve finished composting.
If I work on your book I am saying that I trust myself enough to write a book that has no plot, no problem, no purpose with the hope that those needed pieces will appear by the time I reach the end. I don’t know if I trust you that much. I already know you don’t care. I already know that you don’t need me as much as I need you. And maybe that’s part of the problem. You don’t need me at all. Flyboy needs me. Frankie and Max need me. But, you’re so darn self-sufficient that you don’t need me or Mr. Mac or your sister or anyone. I don’t know how old you are but you’ve already got more control of your life than I can ever hope to find.
There are lots of things you don’t know but you don’t even care that you don’t know them.
Author who needs to be needed
April 10th, 2008 | 8:17 AM
Dear Needy Author,
I need lots of things. I need to know why my mom never talked about my siser but why she sent me here to live just before she died but I probably never will on account of the fact that my mom is dead now. I need to know all the things Mr. Mac knows about native plants but I probably never will on account of that thing that happened that started the whole story in the first place. I need to fit somewhere, anywhere. I’m tried of being told to “bloom wherever I’m planted” because planting something means setting down roots and roots tie you to something, someone and near as I can figure, I’m not tied to anything.
No roots makes it kind of hard to stand up for anything at all.
May 6th, 2008 | 11:48 AM
Dear Plant kid,
That new project at school, the family tree. Sorry. I’d like to tell you that it will all work out just fine but honestly, I haven’t a clue.
Author with questions of her own
May 8th, 2008 | 6:51 AM
Mr. Mac gave me one of his mini lectures the other day. This one was on plants that go along for hundreds of years thinking they’re called one thing and then wham, they wake up in the morning and they’re called something else. Did you know they could do genetic testing on plants, like a DNA test they do on people to find out if they’re related? Anyway, Mr. Mac says while it might be nice to know which plant is related to another one it really doesn’t make any difference to the plant. It’s either gonna grow or not grow and calling it something different isn’t going to change a thing.