red block

The toughest part about writing a novel, for me, is figuring it out, that is, developing the idea, and usually I’ll write a single scene. I’ll see and hear that scene before I outline, if I outline, before I do any research, before I do anything at all. But after that first scribbling, I’ve got to give meaning to the image or the scene or the bare idea that is the seed of a novel, and usually a number of other scenes will pop up, disconnected or vaguely connected, but mostly none of it gets me anywhere until that seed has grown roots, branches, leaves, and flowers.

A Lamentation of Swans began with two images, both from two favorite painters: The Soul of a Rose by John William Waterhouse and Watermills by Jacob von Ruisdael.

From those two images have come a cornucopia of story, story notes, an incomplete exploratory draft, and much wrestling with angels. Those two paintings made me think about sociocultural silences.

I go up and down with the book. It’s the red block in the puzzle game “Unblock Me.” Love that game (second to Bejeweled), play it obsessively, and sometimes I solve the puzzle and free the red block within 18 moves–once I solved it in 14 moves–but most of the time it takes me many moves to free that red block and many of those moves are false starts and wrong ways. That’s the case with A Lamentation of Swans. It’s the red block and all the unanswered, unfigured out stuff is barricading my red block, my story, and all the ups and downs are my many moves to answer the stuff and free the story.

I’m fascinated by my premise so I keep poking at it, keep moving stuff around, keep inching it forward, and keep getting blocked. It’s comical; it’s ridiculous; it’s maddening. But I’m going to free that red block.


2 thoughts on “red block

  1. Sounds like life, sometimes we have to make many moves and rearrange blockades in order to finally free ourselves.

  2. That’s an interesting way of working but it might not work for everyone. In the novel writing classes I teach, the very first assignment is to make a rough, short draft of the story outline. You can change it as you proceed once you get started writing and understanding your characters, but if you don’t have the road map how do you know where you are going? Beginning, middle, and end and what’s in between will fall into place as your characters take you through it.

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