Thursday, September 25, 2014

Home (and Other) Improvements

Regular readers will understand that a number of the things I’ve been doing around this house were initially spurred on by a plan to throw my mom a birthday party.  I remember so clearly when dad and I worked on a party for her together, and at the same time he was making sure she had a new microwave in her kitchen, and so on.  Guests get us going, I suppose, and when there’s a good “reason” I know I enjoy a bit of nesting.

One of the major excitements around here, of course, has been the new writing desk.  It’s been in the house just under two weeks, and I have been enjoying it to bits.  The thing is six feet by three, and I joked before it came along “It would eat up all the space in that room and burp happily” – but as imposing a piece of furntiture as it is, it’s not out of place nor proportion.

Ohhhhhh, and having a huge desk.  I come home to it every day, and it’s so much easier getting a bit DONE on this desk.  It amuses the cat, of course, to get in my way – but overall this investment has been a good choice.

So far, it’s seen perhaps as much bill-paying and administrivia as it has writing, BUT … it’s been a pleasure to get a little bit into the WIP, and to have a place where my research and writing are capaciously accommodated.  A positive luxury, actually.

The hugeness of the desk allows both the resource of space to work, but also physical comforts as a writer I have never had.  Contemplating the need for a foot rest, I’m not sure my grandmother’s old footstool wouldn’t fit just fine down there, and that gives me a little grin.  It has a rightness about it, writing while surrounded by family artifacts, writing on a desk I fell bewilderingly in love with.  All of my family are teachers – whether by formal profession or not – and the books and chairs and *things* of them and their minds mean a little something to me, as I crack a new book of my own, to do the reading and research I must, or as I noodle about with actual-writing which isn’t actual at all, but only exercise, to learn about my characters, my scenes, my setting, as I go.

Many historical fiction authors have a set process by which the research for x-amount of time, outline, collate, and writing is a separate thing, done after all the rest.  I never was a fan of steps, and to hold back from writing now, at the point where I feel it’s been so long since I “finished” Ax (… which time … ?), would just be punitive.

And pointless.

The thing is, the writing I am doing now is not work I expect to make the final cut, it’s not even something I’d consider draft work.  The writing I do when research is still new is writing both to flex my creative muscles and to find my inroads into the next novel.  Given the connections between Ax and the WIP, much of it is swing lines – taking a point from the one, and finding its connection to the other; traveling, Tarzan-style, from the branch of one tree to some hold on the next.

The WIP has never, in my mind, been a sequel – but perhaps I need to reconsider that, or perhaps I’ll learn better.  It has little to do with Ax in some very fundamental ways:  not told first-person, setting more cosmopolitan, multiple generations and character focal points, the story of women rather than one man …  Each one will stand alone.

But, too – it’s an obvious starting point, to approach this WIP, by taking a look at the moments and effects where these two stories touch.  And so, I grasp the line in the first novel, which leads to the next – where Clovis’s sister marries south – where his niece grows up daughter to an inimical ally – where she actually visits her mother’s homeland, as a girl, and *meets* this branch of her family.

That last point, too … I had a little fun, taking a look at Clovis through this new character’s eyes.  For one, there was a perverse pleasure in minutely describing him physically – which is NEVER done, in Ax.  My feeling is, readers often invent their own faces (I always have) and anything laid out may be ignored.  More to the point, Clovis’ novel was told first-person through his own eyes, and this was not a character much given to gazing upon his reflection, even apart from the fact that he lived in a world siginificantly lower on mirrors than our own.  I also got to learn a little about Amalasuntha at thirteen-ish; how she felt about the smells, the chills, the sights – and the people – of this strange world from which her blood had flowed, but which was so foreign to her.

That scene, though perhaps in a much-altered/entirely gutted form, I expect will survive, in some way, into the WIP proper.

But, for now, there is a freedom in writing, knowing it is commitment-free if I need it to be … and in working, at my new desk.

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