Ten to one
In the times when I’m away from my laptop and can’t indulge in feverish composition, I often have flashes of insight about the stories I’m working on. (Do these flashes come because I’m away from my laptop? Does the inability to be writing cause me to have these moments of inspiration?) When this happens I generally make feverish notes so the thoughts don’t get away. I always keep a small notepad and (mechanical) pencil at hand, and generally regardless of whatever I am (or should be) doing, I will take up pencil and pad and scratch down a few lines until I have my brilliant thought safely corralled.
Although these notes sometimes deal with a short story I’m working on or even what I plan to do for the coming weekend, they mostly fall into two categories right now. Either they are about the Finnegans novel I’m currently working on or they are about the Larger than Life novel I’ve set aside for the present.
What I’ve found in recent months is that the ratio of Larger notes to Finnegans notes is about ten to one. I have about ten insights about my frustrating Larger than Life project to every one I have for my Finnegans novel. I suspect there is a message in that for me.
I don’t want to parse this too finely. The Finnegans novels — I have about a half dozen plots I’m actively developing as the muse visits me — have been knocking around in my head much longer than Larger than Life has. It may be that I’ve worked out most of the character and plot development for those stories and just don’t “need” the insights now. Also, Larger than Life is a more ambitious work; I intend for it to present a much more complex character with a more challenging storytelling approach. The Finnegans can more or less be taken at face value. My Larger than Life character — let’s call him Chris, though he would prefer a different name — merits a more careful and considered view.
Larger than Life continues to both tantalize and frustrate me. It’s probably going to be the hardest thing I’ll ever write. I began work on it, managed to get about six chapters written, and found that I still didn’t know the story well enough to do it justice. It’s certainly become a much deeper telling than what it had started out as. The character’s journey and destination, while the same as originally, are also different. I’m still trying to understand it and how to present it, which is why I think the insights that come to me continue to come to me. I’m still learning what the story is that I have to tell.
I don’t mind this. Larger than Life will be a much better story than what I had originally conceived. I just don’t know when it will be time to start writing it again. And my Finnegans story would appreciate more mental space for its development in the meantime.