transitions

No, not some musings on the change from one year to the next. (By the way, is there some celestial reason why January 1 is considered the beginning of the new year in most of the world? Or is it just arbitrarily agreed upon? Seems like the first day of spring would make more sense, as many cultures do.)

Rather, I’m going to moan about what may be my biggest struggle with writing: transitions.

I’ve been picking at my latest Fathers and Sons story, “Boys are like puppies,” for a few weeks. And by “picking at” I mostly mean staring at the screen, waiting for the next words to come.

There are several things I want to do in this story. One is to contrast different fathering styles and attitudes toward parenting. This will involve casual nudity. (Ten-year-old Davey fears he has a tick on him and drops his pants before his buddy and the buddy’s father so that his dad can check his bottom.) Davey and his dad are comfortable with this — often they go skinny dipping together — but the other father is aghast and his son is embarrassed.

That scene, and another about the two boys peeing in the forest, are the crises that cause the other father to storm away from the campfire, dragging his son along. Davey doesn’t understand what happens and only knows that his new friend is gone. Davey’s dad tries to shield him from what went wrong, and it results in a more fulfilling weekend for the two of them.

I have these (and other) moments of the story clearly in my mind. The problem is stringing them together. The problem is in the transitions between these scenes. And my mistake for the past few weeks has been in trying to make the transitions rather than just getting more words down (those other moments of the story) and worrying about the transitions later.

It’s an old lesson that I seem to need to keep relearning. With past stories that bedeviled me I have just written the various scenes within them and then found a way to fit them all together. (“The Lonely Road” is a good example.) Usually, when I have most of the parts completed, the assembly becomes more evident. It all needs reworking after that, but writing is rewriting, as they say.

And so it has been with “Boys are like puppies.” I stared at the blank screen long enuf, wishing I could get to the funny scene of the naked boy before the campfire, and then decided I would just get that written and worry about the transition to it later.

The result was 600 new words. Satisfying words, and even an inkling of how to make the transition to them. My regret is that I didn’t do this weeks ago, but at least I’ve done it now and hope the momentum continues.

There are two other “big” scenes to complete in the story. And then the transition work. The incubation of it all. The reworking. Maybe even sending the draft to a couple of writer friends (and non-writer friends, who I’ve learned can give more visceral feedback). And on to the next story in the cycle. (I really want to write these stories in chronological sequence now, since each feeds into the subsequent stories, but a later story in the cycle, “Father’s Day,” has been hammering at my brain for a while now, so it may be the next project. Or at least I could write some of the scenes within it. Hmmmm.)

Or I might do something completely different. I have a couple of stories not in this cycle at all that are presenting themselves to me, and maybe it would be healthy to step away from the Fathers and Sons stories for a while to do something fresh. Whatever, it feels good to be getting some words down.

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