And then the flashback that changes everything . . .
So now that I've spent several weeks reconfiguring the sequence of the first part of the book and planning out how to introduce certain threads earlier, I've finally started in on the actual revision. It's been slow going, what with my recent coccyx/back injury and my students' finals three weeks away, but I'm trying to put in as much time as I can physically manage. And my writing session yesterday was one of those amazing sessions--the kind we writers live for. The kind where sudden clarity comes and we see things we never saw before, and one simple line adds a dimension to everything.
Ironically, this breakthrough came right after I'd made a list of my objectives for the week, a list that included items like "Bring P&L into the graveyard," "watch pacing in chapter 3," and "line edit and check for melodrama." In addition to all the left-brain, OCDish dictums, I gave myself another maxim. "Allow humor to break into the drama and the horror," I wrote, "and allow for mystical interactions and divine intervention! If I get an inspiration that feels right, follow it! Do not question; just go with it! Forget UH and go with my gut!"
And so I did. There I was, dutifully ticking off the checkmarks, and suddenly, in response to a problem I hadn't yet figured out how to solve, I saw a scene. It was a flashback, beautifully germane to the current situation in the chapter, brief, and chilling. It explained so much, and answered so many questions--and it was completely and utterly unplanned. And after I wrote it, I didn't even have to fit it in to the chapter--it pretty much told me exactly where it should go, and I went with it. And it felt so good.
Now, of course, it changes a few of the nitpicky things I'd planned, mostly with the current chapter. I will now no longer need another scene I'd planned on in my resequencing, so in a way this brief flashback will replace what would have otherwise been something workable but clunky. But more importantly, the images in this chapter are echoed throughout the book, but by having this flashback here, early on, it will change the way the reader sees those images. And perhaps even more importantly, it changes the way I see them.
That's what never ceases to amaze me about this process of writing a novel, a process I've found unparalleled in any other art. It seems that every time I've peeled the onion, every time I think I've figured everything out, there's always that one more thing to discover. That one more thing that is in itself electrifying, but when put in context with the whole is both horrifying and utterly heartbreaking.
Perhaps for the first time, I've given up ever trying to find the bottom of this process. And in giving up, that is when I float.
*The image for this post is from painter Fernando Casas's webpage