“Men at Rest”
My Portland sojourn ends today. Later this afternoon, I will be returned to the frigid Midwest. Farewell to sixty-degree, (mostly) sunny days and actual outdoor running and mountains in the distance. Farewell to Powell’s Books (visited three times in three consecutive days.) Farewell to the little granddaughter and her proud parents.
Along with seeing some sights and soothing an infant and eating too much, I had wanted to get some writing done. I didn’t want my week away to interrupt the momentum I’ve had since the turn of the year. And so I made a tentative beginning at the next Fathers and Sons story, “Men at Rest.”
I’ve been anticipating this one for a long time. It is a companion to my published F&S story “Men at Work and Play.” Some things were set up there that are fulfilled in this later story. As with most of the stories I’ve written, I had begun collecting notes for it in a Word file and then adding to them as insights arrived or bits of dialog worked out or things-that-didn’t-fit-in-other-stories-but-were-too-good-to-throw-out happened. When I sat down to begin this story, I had more than three thousand words worth of notes accumulated.
I’ve said here before that if I can get the right beginning words to a story worked out, the rest of the story usually pours forth and I mostly just have to keep the fingers flying across the keyboard as though I’m taking dictation. That happened this time. I knew the opening words, who spoke them (the grandson), and I could picture the setting where it happened. I knew what I wanted the story to do, and I knew how to end it. All of the pieces were in place. It was easy to grab a few hours of solitude each morning if I rose at 3:00 a.m. (which I did all but one day).
The first day I was happy enuf to get one whole paragraph written. But I tinkered a bit more in the quiet house and ended up with more than 900 words after the first session. That felt good.
Subsequent days weren’t always as productive, at least in word count, but I was doing the muscle work to get the characters to do what I needed. My real goal, aside from wanting to sustain the momentum, was to get enuf of the story down so that when I got back to my humble writing room at home, I would be able to pick it up and keep going.
The words continued to accumulate, and the story progressed. And yesterday morning, the day before I was to leave Portland, I finished the first draft of the story. 3,000+ words. Good words, I think, too.
Of course I’ll need to review and reconsider and redo and rewrite. The story is far from finished. But not only do the earlier stories affect this one (“Men at Rest” is the second-to-last story in the cycle), but this one has ripples that affect the telling of the earlier stories as well. Though they are supposed to stand on their own, they are a whole. (In fact, I’m not sure “Men at Rest” can stand on its own; much of it doesn’t make sense without the preceding stories to inform it.)
So I’m in a good place, and as amazing as it sounds to me, I only have one story in the cycle left to write.