This weekend was full of adventures. But for the most part, they were all inside my head.
See, I’ve been writing this book.
Yes, I know. I’ve written others, and they went out as planned, and all was well.
But this book, this book is different.
This is the first book. The book that wasn’t meant to be a book at all.
Back in the day I started writing flash fiction for the heck of it. It was fun and a way to play with words and I’d never really meant to be a writer, anyway. These were just stories to help keep my head out of the tangle of grad school.
But then there was this one scene in my head.
I started writing it and it wasn’t just a flash piece. I had to start further and further back to get to that one scene:
A girl, out in the mountains, walking towards a sheer stone cliff.
And she walks through, and disappears.
I wanted to write that scene. I could see it so clearly.
But I didn’t know who she was or how she got there, or anything.
And then I had another idea. About a book that sucked the reader in with dreams and visions, became a drug that they couldn’t put down.
And I wondered if the two scenes were connected.
By the time I’d backed everything up to get the book, the girl, the colony world, and the rest of it tied together, things had changed. And I was a long way off from flash fiction.
Maybe it’ll be a short story, I thought.
After a few months it became pretty clear. I was writing a novel. I felt sort of tricked into it. I hadn’t meant to write a novel. I just wanted to get the girl from the colony town she lived in and where she had found the book, to the mountain where she walked through the wall.
But along the way things kept happening. More people kept coming up because otherwise it wouldn’t have been very interesting, would it?
And then more things came up. And I had to ask why for all of them.
After six months of this, I thought if I was writing a novel anyway, maybe I should get some practice. Someone (I don’t even remember who anymore) told me about Nanowrimo, and I decided to try writing a novel on purpose.
So I did, and after a couple of years of revisions it turned into Coyote’s Daughter. And the next year for Nanowrimo I wrote the zeroth draft of Bear’s Heart. And after a few more years of revisions, that story felt good and solid and true, so off it went.
And there’s a couple more drafts of different novels that have happened, but I keep coming back to the first story. About three years ago I hunkered down and put an end on it. That ending wrapped things up, but never really sat right with me.
So I put it aside, worked on other things, other projects.
And this weekend, I replanned the whole end of the book. Pretty much cut out the final eight chapters all together. And felt wonderfully free.
I know it’s ridiculous, but I get into this thing where once I’ve thought about a story a certain way, that’s the way it is. Really. The truth, as it were. Even though it’s a story, and I’ve written it, that’s the way things happened.
So this weekend I spent almost ten hours taking apart all of that reality, asking “well, what if that’s not the way it happened?”
It was uncomfortable. After all these years, after all the time these characters and this world had lived in my head, I KNEW how this worked.
But what if it didn’t? What if there was an entirely different structure to the end? What if some of the events were the same, but the reasons were entirely different? What if some of the events that had happened, just didn’t?
Poking, rearranging. Making things work better, smoother.
And then something clicked. It was obvious. Simple. By far the easier, more natural arrangement of “facts.”
I didn’t write eight new chapters for the end of the book, but I’ve got a new outline, and so far it’s working for me.
And it’s making me wonder. Other things that I assume are facts – are they? What if more things in life are flexible?
What if somebody is acting a certain way, not because they’re a jerk, but because of some other reason all together? What if a client is late getting back to me, not because they hate the work, but because they’ve gotten excited about it and are thinking of new ways to play with it?
What if truth was more flexible than what I’ve written in my head?
What if my own truths – how I behave, what my patterns are, how I react – could also be more flexible? What if I could change those things into new patterns? I can’t change my own past as easily as the back story of one of my characters, but what if looking at things as a cohesive whole gives me ideas for a simpler, easier solution for the future?
I don’t know, but I’m rather enjoying the idea of flexible truth.* And I have a notion that it could lead to a whole new kind of adventures, even if it’s just in how I deal with the days. And someday, I’ll get that book done.
*Not flexible facts. I’m with Neil deGrasse Tyson on this. Science is true whether you believe in it or not.