Coffee, Rain, Saturday

A ridge and valley in central PAFrom the cafe where I sit, very close by I see the wall of one of the long ridges that we sometimes refer to individually as a “mountain”. Those ridges, with the relatively flat valleys in between, are part of what make the landscape here so beautiful and interesting. My village is set just against the edge of this ridge, and now that it’s early fall, I can see a tiny bit of color in the trees running up that green expanse. At the moment, it’s a rainy day and there is heavy fog drifting along the top of the ridge. So I sit in a coffee shop that I could walk to if I weren’t so sadly lazy and look at this view while I write.

Last night at some point I woke up and then lay without sleeping, not such a rare thing at my age, I think, albeit not such a desirable thing either. You know how it is, one thought after another comes marching through saying Oh, think about me too, and there you are awake. I don’t worry or fret at night, though, not at all. I just think. And as I lay there, the thought came to me that there is so much to look forward to. It’s obvious that the list might include a long-delayed trip to Pittsburgh (that’s still theoretical), frisky romantic interludes (somewhat better than a theory), or drives in the country on sunny fall days (certainly possible if this rain stops).

I was also thinking of things that only a weird geek could possibly feel happy about. In the afternoon I received a book in the mail to learn the website programming language JavaScript. Yes, I’m excited about it. I’m also creating a website for a non-profit group, and the idea of doing it seems cool and fun. This week I finally talked to the newspaper about picking up my health column. I have not heard an answer, and they may say no, but until then I will go with the fact that it was a positive conversation.

And in that quasi-dreamlike state last night, feeling positive and enjoying the cold wind blowing in the window, my list of cheer inducement definitely included writing. I like doing this blog, though it can be a challenge at times. And I really am fairly pleased with the progression in writing the novel. I’m almost up to 80 pages, and the story is well into the plot structure of alternating travel in two different directions at the same time.

Or maybe the phrase “at the same time” raises a question about  time, since my protagonists are traveling west in 2011 and east in 1876. It’s not actually simultaneous, as they go back and forth. I’m still working out some of the technical details of this, but it seems to be working so far. I now have Benedict and Miramar driving down the interstate across Kansas, where they’ve just completed an unusually eventful ride in a hot air balloon. At the same “time” they have just arrived by train in St. Louis of the nineteenth century. That scene is still in progress, so they are at the moment sitting in a horse-drawn tram headed toward the river, where they will see steamboats docked. And I know that scene is going to include thieves and money and a political rally. Hmm, those things sound like they would naturally be connected, don’t they? But that’s not my intention.

I find that this is a somewhat complicated story to write. Sections of the book that are already written cry out for revision—I hear their feeble voices, bereft of detail and weak in vocabulary, asking for help. But for now my writing technique is to keep moving quickly forward. By “quickly” I mean plodding, stumbling, staring at the screen for long periods, and reading more than I actually need to know about the history of circuses or looking at maps of the Mississippi River for no real reason.

So yep, I am rushing on ahead. Something that is suffering, and I know it, is that the characters do not come close to having the development that I want them to have. Benedict smokes a cigarette now and then, when I remember that he’s a smoker. Mostly I forget. And the style of writing seems rather pedestrian to me, though I aspire to a greater plane of linguistic sublimity. OK, maybe not that high.

For now, though, I’m just trying to get the story out. Get on the horse-drawn tram. What? How do you do that? Get off the tram. What? Get off where?

When I need a break, I’ll read about JavaScript. I’m sorry to make you so jealous.

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Filed under Giving Birth to a Book (That's Why I'm Screaming)

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