I’m finally moving on from the Barrel of Chaotic Monkeys that is plot focus and jumping into the Barrel of Different Chaotic Monkeys that is character focus
Eight drafts and three years later. That’s a lot. I was trying to fit the whole world into a book. (Pro tip – don’t do that.) At first, I wanted to pour my hurt into it. Then I wanted to pour my hope into it. Now I just want to pour the truth into it. That’s the only thing that works.
It’s also the best way to have fun.
Clicking together major pieces of the story felt something like a breakthrough. A moment of going from not knowing what I don’t know, to being fully aware of what I don’t know.
I can work with that without chasing after too many smaller dragons and taking on side quests that lead to sinkholes (i.e. procrastination that looks like work.)
What I also know is that this next part is still just another (big honking ) step in the messy middle.
As I’ve discussed with my accountability partners (Hi Kit! Hi Jaime!) nobody talks much about this part of the journey.
Here’s largely what’s out there:
ZIPPY MONTAGES ABOUT REWRITING. SHOTS OF CRUMPLED PAPER IN THE TRASH AND ALL OVER THE FLOOR! SO MUCH CRUMPLED PAPER! HANDS THROUGH HAIR! SO AGGRAVATED! FURROWED BROW! SO FRUSTRATED! CARB LOADING! SO SNACKY! SOMEONE ASLEEP AT THE KEYBOARD! SO TIRED!
The messy middle is no montage. It is the dark forest of writing. And we need to slow down, join forces, and tell the tale.
Bring on the maps, rag-tag teams, loin-girding, and rucksacks stuffed with snacks and notebooks.
I’m not much of a cartographer, and loin-girding is not listed under the “Other Skills” part of my resume, but I can provide snacks and maybe a bad song or two about our knobby bravery. I can sing that the second draft through to the final draft requires a stubborn unwillingness to admit you are doing the impossible. Look at us! We’re impossibly stubborn! I can sing of encountering sharp things and goblins and clouds of gnats as we carry on towards
a bigger dragon another draft.
It’s full of mud and other things that grab our shoes so tightly that we sometimes walk right out of them. We regularly decide to either go forth hopping on one foot or to backtrack and plant a besocked foot in the mud, pull out the boot, picking off as much muck as we dare.
Let’s go all in – one booted or otherwise. All in. Balls to the wall. Ovaries to the…bovaries? ( I clearly have the makings of a great troubadour.)
I’m sitting with characters now, especially the secondary and minor ones who’ve been wandering around and winking at me, welcoming a little chase. Big flirts, those secondary and minor folks.
In other words, (*strums lute*) a rabbi, four middle-aged activists refusing to be invisible, a washed-up talk show staple of the 1970s, a cantankerous school secretary, an aging journalist, the (fictional) First Lady of the United States, and an amateur magician walk into a bar…