Taming a woolly beast

What a woolly beast The Sleep of Reason has become! More than a year into the writing of it, I find myself slipping in my overall control. Sure, I know where the story is headed, and I know how to get there. That part is fine (if slow in progressing). Yet so much of the story depends upon foreshadowing and parallel structure (not only in events and scenes but in character development) that I have to make sure I keep all of it in mind as I write. It’s especially important now as I begin work on the endgame. Plenty of good stuff planted early on comes to fruit in these last few chapters.

Yet I’m not keeping it in mind. I have mentioned before that I have nearly 40,000 words just in notes for this novel, and as I’m writing I’ll have occasional flashes of memory of what I intended to do at this point or why I had introduced some earlier motif. These flashes startle me because I had pretty much “forgotten” them even though they were intended to contribute to the whole structure of the story. All that can be fixed in the big rewrite to come, but it would be handier if I did the work now.

So in recent days I’ve completed a careful re-reading of my 40,000 words of notes. (I’ve been meaning to do this for months, so shame on me for taking so long.) My purpose was to “re-discover” all of those cleverly devised and shamefully forgotten plot points so I wouldn’t forget to employ them in these last few chapters. Happily, about ninety percent of the material in my notes I’ve either already incorporated or dismissed as no longer serving the needs of the story. The remaining ten percent I’ve highlighted as green text so it will more readily catch my eye in later visits to my notes file. In this way I won’t have to re-read the whole file to find some remaining item I need to be sure to use.

These overlooked points go both directions. Not only do I have items I must incorporate in the few chapters left to be written, but I have several that I need to go back to existing chapters in order to install. It’s not that I forgot them when I was writing those earlier chapters. Rather, as the story has evolved in my poor little mind, I’ve come up with these points to better illustrate or prepare for the later chapters.

And so I feel like I am taming my woolly beast, and I just might become its master before it’s all over.

Update March 26, 2011: Curiously, I find much the same sentiments about the novel I’m somewhat working on now: Larger than Life. I suppose, for me at least, having a document that is out of control is part of my process.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Humble efforts, Process, Sleep of Reason

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