luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure


La Pia Dolomei, Gabriel Dante Rossetti

Winter has unsheathed its claws and raked the lingering remains of summer to shreds, blown the summery bits into the wide bone-white, sun-bare sky.

Every now and then I think I’ll not get anywhere with the writing until I’m retired from day work and my time is my own to devote to my books. The past few days, bygone hours with nothing much to recommend them, hence the silence here. I’ve been working on A Lamentation of Swans, have managed a couple thousand new words. Right now they’re just words.

I’ve asked myself what is this book about? Every time I ask that question, I get a little more of the answer. What themes underlie the story? What am I writing about? Variations on the Question. The perversities of culture, the way a people internalize the perversities of their culture–that’s one thematic thread. Each time I get a bit of answer to the Question, the novel slips its genre boundaries–what few it has–a little more. I’m not one for genre much and not all that keen on boundaries–never could color inside the lines–but neither do I have the flaming talent, like some do, to transcend, brilliantly. Still I’ve got my ways.


4 thoughts on “luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure

  1. I find that I have to write the first draft before I know what it’s about. I know what the characters are about, but as far as themes and connections — I need to spread it all out in front of me before I can connect the dots.

  2. I write out of order, and sometimes scenes pop up that are not in the outline. But often they add a layer to the characters, plot or theme.

    Who’d have thought that Arminius loved to sing? Now, can you imagine what I’m going to do with that when the night before the battle of Idistaviso Germanicus hears him from afar. Memories he so doesn’t need at that moment. *evil grin*

    And in The Charioteer the bad guy has baddied up nicely and makes it impossible for Ciaran to use his Roman contacts upon his return, he’ll need to make a deal with the Saxons if he wants to get his position back. To drive the devil out with the beelzebub, as we say. 😀

  3. I also tend to write my novel with random scenes and then I stitch them all together. I had a different ‘theme’ when I first started out. At first it was a juvenile historical novel about Alexander the Great’s son. Then after a year of working on it, I realized it was too complicated, too political for a juvenile book so I began again with a multiple point of view. It took awhile before I realized what the theme was: “How blind ambition and greed bring down a world power.” That got me focused so now it isn’t a story just about Alexander’s son. He’s only one of many victims in the power struggle between the Successors.
    You’ll probably find this epiphany will come to you some time soon and then you’ll forge straight ahead.

  4. The questions you are asking yourself are the most important of all, in my opinion. I find I can’t plan much of anything in outlines or scene descriptions, can’t write much of anything, until I know WHAT I’m trying to write.

    As the other comments show, and as we all know, there are many ways to get there. The most important thing is to keep asking the questions and never accept an answer until it rings true, and you know for certain it is the right one. Sometimes what we think is an answer is only a step in the process, and if we allow ourselves to keep asking the questions, our answers transform themselves to something deeper, richer.

    Keep asking, keep reflecting, and you will get there!

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