Things are getting pretty crazy for me here. The past six months have flown by. We will be boarding a plane next Friday and flying back to the states for another merry go round tour of family, friends and events. My son is getting married on the 1st of March in Fort Lauderdale, and Wayne and I are tying the knot on March 21st on a sunset cruise boat in San Diego Harbor. Long flights, hotels, family guest rooms, rental cars — am I going to be able to keep working on this book? We’ll be gone from Feb. 20 until March 30, and my book is due March 23. My deadline is on my honeymoon!
Yeah. Scary, eh? I’d wanted to have a draft in hand by the time we left — five days from now, but clearly that’s not going to happen. I’ve been jamming trying so hard to write more each day — to the extent that last week, I didn’t even write a blog post. At the end of each day for the past several weeks, I have not met my goals for that day. The words just don’t flow out fast enough. My really slow days are 800 words and my best day so far was around 3400 words.
Yes, I could ask my editor for an extension, but I don’t want to. I’m disappointed with my slow output, and I’m determined to prove to myself that I can do this. The last chapters of a book have always gone fast for me. My last two books have been around 130,000 to 140,000 words. Don’t ask me why I am doing this to myself. I’ve just had long stories to tell.
We are not talking about writers’ block. I guess you might say it is idea block. When I can see the scene in my head, the fingers fly on the keys. But until I can see it, I can’t write it. I’ve tried writing nonsense like they tell you to in books about this stuff, but that doesn’t work for me. If I don’t know what is happening next, it’s because I don’t know enough about my story yet. The only thing that brings a scene into focus is learning more. At times, I can accomplish that by writing pages that won’t make it into the novel, but they will increase my knowledge.
Sometimes it’s because I don’t know enough about my characters. I don’t know what is driving them and just deciding that this guy should do something because it fits the plot is not the same as knowing in my gut that this guy would do this because that’s who he is. Maybe I have to research more about the job I’ve given him, or I ask myself who his first girlfriend was or what he was like as a little kid. When I imagine those things, he starts to come alive for me. It doesn’t work to think out loud. I have to write it down.
Other times, it’s that I don’t know enough about the setting — the place where the action is playing out. Yesterday I wrote a scene that takes place in the Roman catacombs. Wayne and I went to Rome last spring, but at the time, I didn’t know my bad guy was going to get obsessed with the Christian catacombs, so we didn’t go take a catacomb tour. But when I got to that part of the book, I realized he wanted to go there. Big problem. I didn’t know enough about what they would look like to picture the scene in my head. I spent several hours doing research and learned fascinating facts. Did you know there are around 60 different catacombs that have been discovered in Rome where the early Christians (like 1st -3rd century) buried their dead in underground tunnels? Most are not open to the public, and they’re now under highways and shopping centers and apartment complexes. Most people don’t even know they’re there. The entrances are closed and locked, but what if . . . .
This is why we have been “stuck” here in Majuro (not cruising the outer islands of the Marshalls). I must have Internet to write the kind of research-intensive thrillers I’ve been writing. As an atoll, Majuro looks like a necklace of smaller islands connected by reefs. We like to pick up one of the moorings off the more remote island called Eneko (part of the necklace that is Majuro) where we get good protection. We have peace and quiet and Internet here — everything I need to work. I’ve written three quarters of a novel here over the last six months.
Now, I’m worried about my ability to think and write during the next 5 weeks. Will I be able to tune out the madness to write, and then tune back in to enjoy these special occasions? When we returned to Learnativity last August, I was worried about whether or not I could write on a boat while living with another person aboard. It’s been a big change to go from being a single person and solo sailor/writer to living in a relationship. And it took me a while to find my space and get my head into being able to concentrate with someone else around, but now I’ve proven that I can do that.
Am I going to be able to finish this book on time for the proposed October release? I’m going to miss our little Eneko writer’s paradise. It’s going to be tough, but I am going to damn well try.
I’ve been in the catacombs of Rome … while I can picture the dark narrow passages with chambers and recesses [I believe these were called loculi] that had held bodies or urns of ashes, the claustrophobic atmosphere … the bones [did I actually see bones? In my imagination, at least] but mostly I remember the dank smell… of organic matter that had rotted away eons ago, but somehow still lingers. There are broken stones which had once sealed the many burial niches in the walls, some with inscriptions and frescos.The guides kind of hurry you along. Casual tourists are not allowed to wander or linger on their own. I understand there are Jewish catacombs in Rome as well.
Good luck with your writing deadline and congratulations on the marriages!
Thanks for your first hand experience, Marilee. It’s funny, I’d already written about the dampness and the rich, earthy smell. I was in a catacomb in France once and that’s exactly what it was like. There aren’t supposed to be any bones in the catacombs. When the Christians were no longer persecuted, but there were marauders plundering the catacombs, they supposedly moved all the remains to cemeteries within the city walls and the abandoned catacombs were lost and forgotten for many years. I love research way too much.
Congratulations and much happiness in your upcoming marriage, you deserve it!
Thanks, Rich! It’s been a long time — somewhere around 18 years of being single. I never thought marriage would happen again for me. I’d like to think Jim would approve of Wayne.
Have fun! AND Congrats!