Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Writing Process--When The Book Won't Wait

I was told an apocryphal story about someone asking Ernest Hemingway why he drank so much, to which he replied that he drank to get the voices to shut up.  I have no idea whether that really happened or, if it did, it was Hemingway who said it.  But today, in the wee hours of the morning, I got a little taste of what it's like not to be able to get the voices to shut up.  Well, actually it was only one voice.

I started a new book a few days ago.  The opening chapter was pretty decent and so, I thought, was the second.  But something happened last night that's never happened before, through an entire novel and the first chapter of a new one--I dreamed about the book.  Not the writing of the book.  I dreamed as if the story in the book were actually taking place.  I woke up at 4:00AM with the fully developed realization that my second chapter, in which my hero's new client tells her story, was woefully incomplete.  She was too frank too early.  There was no discomfort with telling about the twisted sexual preferences of her new husband.  She was flirting with Harry, the detective, while telling about the humiliation she'd experienced at the hands of her now missing husband.  The voice in my head had the exact way the chapter needed to sound.

I lay there for probably half an hour trying to tell the voice that if it shut up, I would fix the story later today when I was at the library actually writing (I mostly write at my local library during the summer.  But that's another entry.) but it simply wouldn't shut up and let me go back to sleep.  So there I was at 4:30AM, down in the basement rewriting the chapter.  I kept the bones of the story, but the entire tone was new.  It was correct.  It was sympathetic rather than inappropriately flirtatious.  The character was who she was supposed to be.

It was about 6:15 when I was finished.  I was completely exhausted, but ravenously hungry.  I tried to lie down, but it was like I'd run a half marathon and needed to re-fuel.  So I went upstairs, ate a big breakfast, including two cups of caffeinated coffee, and then slept the sleep of the dead for two solid hours.

I've never had that, or anything resembling it, happen before.  When I neared the end of my first book, I was excited to get to my writing time because the story was really flowing and I wanted to get it on paper, so to speak.  But I never dreamed about it and I never woke up in the middle of the night with literally no choice but to get up and write, or in this case re-write.  I'm not sure how I felt about it.  I guess it doesn't matter how I feel.  It will either happen again or it won't.  But I think I have an answer to the first question I posed in  the initial entry of this blog--how do I know I'm a writer?  I am a writer because I have no other choice but to write.

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