Lost In 1794

“I hear lots of tap, tap, tapping. You’re writing away….”

That was my wife trying to get my attention as I sat on the sofa working just before lunchtime yesterday. The lounge had been quiet, and she had been outside reading and enjoying the sun. I must admit I nearly hit the ceiling when she broke the silence.

I’ve written well over two dozen pages in just the last few days. They consist of mostly purely fictional characters and scenes. Once I find I have a “drive” to get a chapter or two, or three, or four, decently-written, I become focused on that to the exclusion of nearly everything else.

“Oh, I see so you aren’t fully with me today,” she laughed when my body language and bewildered, mumbled reply must have indicated I had been returned to 2016 Spain totally unexpectedly.

Print working cover for "Conventions." Click to expand.
Print working cover for “Conventions.” Click to expand.

It was like she had brought me “back to earth.” I had “zoned out” for well over an hour. I had indeed been obsessing with tap, tap, tapping away about aspects of life and people in “1794.”

I know how the tale starts of course, and through whose eyes we’ll see much of it. I know how it will proceed, twists I will include, and how it ultimately ends. And I know roughly what I want the middle to include. Now it has come down to, once again, filling it all in to get to the end.

I have found after three books, and continuing again with this fourth, that I do often write in such intense “spurts.” And once again there is – perhaps unavoidably – some of “me” on these pages, in “Robert.” I suppose I’m “in him” in his living years away from where he had been born, in his love of rural upstate New York, and more.

A view of part of the Catskills "Windham Path," in late February. [Photo my me, 2016.]
A view of part of the Catskills “Windham Path,” in late February. [Photo my me, 2016.]

All told, though, writing like this is a many months’ process. Some things change as I write: an outline is not a book. Once you start writing, you make “discoveries” along your “journey” that you had not anticipated months before when you were outlining the book.

I remember one historian joking a few years ago that a publisher had once told him: “Get Thomas Jefferson in there somewhere if you can. People love reading about Thomas Jefferson.” The historian laughed that Jefferson was not really central in that particular history, but he did do his best to stretch it a bit wider so it reached to him. I’m trying that myself with this fictional tale. 😉

As my (now late) uncle once told me, he began every writing day by looking at his PC screen and asking himself: “Okay, friends, so what are we going to do today?” And then he would have at it….

I do the same. Indeed, consider “Henry.” He appears in this “sneak peek” I shared a few days ago. If you missed it, here it is again:

Sneak Peek into  "Conventions." Click to expand.
Sneak Peek into “Conventions.” Click to expand.

I knew from the outset who “he” would be. I had sensed how he would fit in as well. Now, he is taking on a fuller form and substance, and has become an important part of the story.

Similarly, a certain fictional young French woman. I don’t want to say more about her yet, but she had been little more than a vague minor character idea until only a few days ago. She has evolved into a great deal more. She represents so much, and all in one individual.

That’s how I write. If you do, I’m sure you have your own similarly personal methods. There is no one way to do this.

My single rule (if I can say I have one) is that I aim to write the sort of books I enjoy reading. I do that because I’m sure others will enjoy reading them, too. I don’t believe I’m THAT unique a person.

Currently, I’m also finding I often can’t type it all down quickly enough, and I hope that’s a good sign. For if you truly enjoy what you’re writing so much that you can’t get it onto the pages fast enough, hopefully quite a few people will enjoy reading it at least as much themselves someday. 🙂