current music: “Pompeii” by Bastille (is it possible to be addicted to a song?)
current mood: hopeful
My current work-in-progress, HOUR OF THE BEES, came about in less-than-predictable circumstances.
Reasons I sometimes think HOUR OF THE BEES was a fluke:
-the idea came to me in a flash, like a lightning burst that showed me the beginning, middle, and end in one shot.
-though writing a first-person, present tense, middle grade contemporary with no pirates or dragons or jungles scared me, the whole thing spilled out of me in about ten days.
-I’ll say that again: I wrote it in TEN DAYS.
-the first draft was a pretty clean skeleton of a plot. All I did for revisions was clarify plot points, expand emotions, fix my prose, and read it aloud.
-I was pretty calm as the thing came spilling out. It felt like it was already written, somewhere in the wide open universe, and all I had to do was listen for the echo and put it to paper.
Reasons I know HOUR OF THE BEES was NOT a fluke:
-even though technically it only took ten days to write, that doesn’t account for the year and a half I spent seriously learning writing craft. How did I learn this craft? The old-fashioned way; I tried to write a book and instead floundered in a merciless sea of plot holes, misaligned character stakes, and bad writing “darlings” that needed to be slaughtered by the thousands. When I decided I’d learned enough from that failure, I wrote something else. That something else was HOUR OF THE BEES.
-the idea came fully fleshed-out in a flash because I worked on plot craft for so long. No one’s shocked when a pianist practices theory for years and is able to improvise a new melody; why is it shocking when a writer can produce a decent story?
-I was calm when I wrote it, much like someone sits in the waiting room of a therapist. It’s a nervous calm, a calm before the plunge into your river of personal sludge. HOUR OF THE BEES may appear to be just a bittersweet middle grade magical realism/contemporary book, but it’s actually not. It’s actually the result of me hacking my way through serious personal emotional territory and trying to figure out how I feel about death.
-sometimes as a writer, and just as an imaginer, I use fantasy and adventure elements as escape. I will never pooh-pooh escapism, as I know it’s an important (and fun) part of life. But working on something contemporary? Where the only fantastical and adventurous things are the state of the relationships of my characters and the landscape of their expectations of each other vs. their reality… It may have poured out of me in ten days, but it was a labor. Hard. Every word was toiled over.
-since my vision was a simple story with a simpler story within that story, I had to work extra hard to keep its majesty in check. It’s easy to expand, get bigger, world-build, add, magnify. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep things quiet. Again, like playing the piano. Anyone can bang the keys and play forte. But playing softly and maintaining that level of clarity… it requires a special touch.
I begin querying HOUR OF THE BEES soon. Hold me.