January 27th, 2010

writing steles burning

with weary precision you lowered 'em down

Got another 800 words or so on Grail before bed last night, bringing it up to 42K. I'm also figuring out, finally, what  the engine that has to drive the thematic arc is. Basically, up until now, I've been writing a lot of philosopical polemics strung together with telephone calls, which is all very nice, but isn't much in the way of plot or characterization or any of those things. The book has been refusing to gel, to come together and compel me.

Doggedness helps under these situations: you just keep pecking away at the bastard until it gives up and hands you the keys.

This morning on my run, it occurred to me--the solution is to kill somebody in the first couple of chapters, and let that be the tension that drives the first half of the book. I even know why; now the question is who. And I suspect I know the answer, and I'm not happy about it.

This means (yay?) I get to rewrite the first half of the book again.

This sort of thing often happens to me. I get a third or a half of a book done and I have to go back and restructure the whole thing, because once it's put together I can see all the way it's not bearing the weight of the story.

This sensation, though frustrating, is actually positive. It means my brain is starting to get a handle on how the narrative needs to be shaped, which is a positive thing, as it will eventually lead to a story that works like a suspension bridge--I hope.

I spent a bit of time last night looking at pictures of Akhal-teke horses (a breed I've had a fondness for since I was a kid, and saw the famous photo of the Russian racehorse Kambar in one of my many horse books--yeah, many of them they really do have a bizarre metallic shine, due to a peculiarity of coat structure) as research/inspiration for The Steles of the Sky. They're a skinny, sturdy, hardy, phlegmatic, ancient breed adapted to harsh climates and long travel, and my steppes horses are modeled on them.

Bansh is going to be a bay mare much like this one.  But the horse that really caught my eye is a perlino stud cold named Habib who died last year (I don't know if it was misadventure or illness--his owner sounds very broken up about it.) Tell me this is not Death's pale horse, right here.

Oh yeah. I got a use for this guy.

The near-manelessness is also a breed characteristic, and it adds to the generally alien look of these horses.

Here's some youtube of a stud horse showing off, while I'm here.

Today, the plan is sit on the sofa and work, PT, go to a cafe and work, climbing, come home and eat potato pancakes and pork chops, and work some more.

We'll see how it goes.

Tea today: pai mu tan vanilla
Teacup today: thatpotteryguy mug
Temperature this morning: 28 degrees

154.5 miles to Isengard
writing dust bible 'house of dust"

he never had a chance

I'll post this later tonight, but right now I am writing in the Half Moon Cafe in Wallingford, a habitual writing haunt on days when I have massage therapy and climbing, since it's silly to go home between them. I just spent a couple of fruitful hours going over Grail and looking at what I have.

It's actually pretty good. A lot of it needs a little line-editing, and the character and plot need to be dialed up as the theme is dialed back, but I am starting to see how to do it. I suspect tomorrow's work is going to involve me, a pile of index cards, and a scene-by-scene outline. Because my current list of bullet points is, by God, enough plot for any damned novel--but  right now there is nothing to "keep it all from happening at once," and as such it's confusing and intimidating.

Yes, I've managed to create a muddle too nonlinear even for me.

Fortunately, we have tools for dealing with that. And the old index cards have served me well before.

I'm trying to nurture my booklove. I need to recapture the romance, get passionate and obsessed with this. It will be so much easier and more fun if I can manage that. Writing is like any relationship: sometimes it's damned hard dreary work and sometimes it's so much fun you don't want to do anything else. Right now, this book is hard, dreary work.

But I can fix that.

I just have to find ways to kick myself in the squids hard enough to get them awake again.


That was a good climbing night. I got the crux of my project route, which means I have to go back and climb the whole thing on Monday (ack!) and then redid a bunch of other stuff--some challenging, some easy--and quit while I still felt good. Win.