In Which the Outline May Be Flouted Safely

28 October 2003

Every once in awhile, I need to remind myself that The Outline not only is not sacred, it never was sacred. Never have I thought I would follow an outline to the letter. Ever. I don't know why I need this reminder, but I do.

And as you might expect from that, the chapter I was writing yesterday took some twists. It's all the fault of transitions, really. "Why are Edward and Orvokki at the entrance of the Pohjola, rather than doing something fiddly and fabulous deep inside it?" I asked myself, so that I could write the first paragraph or two of a scene that was already substantially done (I thought). And it turned out that we had an entire field trip to follow the already-written bit, out in the middle of northern Finland in January, and an entire set of Foreboding Plot Events and reactions to them, and I didn't know it. So here I am with Foreboding Plot Events and some very twitchy Saami couriers, and things are making more sense than they were, I think. I hope.

I have a hard time telling when The Latest Complication is good and going to make the book richer and more interesting and when it's just too much. But I tend to write short anyway. (Let us not discuss how much this frightens me in this particular case.) So lately my plan has been to throw in the kitchen sink when it occurs to me that the characters could use somewhere to wash their hands, and then my first-readers can say, no, no kitchen sink, too many appliances already, too confusing. This worked out okay last time, I think; nobody has said, "Lose Odin," and a few people have expressed extreme distress at the very idea. So I think we'll try this with the Saami and the seitas and hope it works out okay. And cut it if it doesn't.

I really love not being an Olympic gymnast, as I think I've said before. In the Olympics, you have your chance to stick your dismount and that's pretty much it. In novels, you can do the equivalent of landing on your head and breaking your entire spine one vertebra at a time. And you can go back and fix it. If you get a scene entirely wrong in the first draft, your career is not ruined. You have a dozen, a hundred, almost as many more chances as you need to get it right. Almost, because spending the rest of your life on one scene is probably not a great idea, and some things just don't work, or just don't work for some authors. But for a lot of stuff, try, try again works pretty well. You can even have someone run up behind you and lift your butt into the air if you're falling.

Also, you get to eat and have normal hormonal development and all that, and no ripped calluses. The advantages are myriad.

In good postal news, I got mail to Marissa Lingen forwarded here, so as far as we know everything is forwarding. One of the pieces of mail was a rejection letter (personal and warmish), and the other was a check for my essay about my grandmother and bread. We like money that arrives here safely. Now we just wait for the rest of it. I have really no gauge of how long things are taking to forward. I'm going to have to assume that truly urgent things would be e-mailed or would have my current address or something.

I read a lot of The Betsy-Tacy Companion: A Biography of Maud Hart Lovelace, and the author of it is seriously annoying me. I like the Betsy-Tacy books, but...dang. This author (of the Companion, I mean, not Maud Lovelace) is a bit obsessive about finding parallels. She uses exclamation points entirely too frequently, and she makes stuff up. It's understandable that a series as autobiographical as Betsy-Tacy would have the thrill of the hunt for the writer of such a book, but she expresses surprise whenever things don't go exactly as in the books. And she pulls stuff out of random orifices, like, "Perhaps Mike even had a nickname for Maud [Hart] as Tony had 'Ray of Sunshine' for Betsy [Ray]. 'Hart of my Heart?' 'Queen of Harts?'" Okay, lady: back off. I'm sure it's fun for you to speculate about Lovelace's early life, but that was entirely conjecture, and lame conjecture at that. If she had found a card or something in Maud's scrapbook that said, "Happy birthday to the Hart of my Heart. -- Mike," okay. Then she could report that. But this: it's not clever, it's not factual, it's not interesting. Just stop. Annoy your friends and family with it at dinner if you must.

Ah well; I'm probably just cranky about it because I feel like I should finish it before I make a good start on The Magician's Ward. We should be pretty stocked up for Saturday's party, I think. We have a ton of stuff for normal days, too (yay for the chest freezer!), and a few things like a lidded kitchen trash that I just needed to bite the bullet and buy. So I did. And Halloween candy. I have no idea what the neighbors expect for numbers of trick-or-treaters, but we won't be getting Mark from the airport until mid-evening, probably after a lot of the little ones are home again, with as early as it gets dark here. We still don't know which, if any, parties we're going to on Halloween. I'm just going to let Mark see what he feels like and how he's doing.

In the meantime, the list stretches on still, despite all we accomplished yesterday. So I'm going to get back to it.

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