The Common abroad

We’re going on a roadtrip! Well, as far as the airport, and then a quick jaunt by plane and we’ll all be in St John’s Newfoundland. Just like that. The first delegation leaves today, the second wave tomorrow afternoon, and the final two tomorrow night. Ryan Turner‘s (amazing) new book, What We’re Made Of, launches Monday in St John’s and we figured we might as well tag along for moral support and beers. I wonder if he will have incorporated the kids-sitting-on-lap thing by Monday night. This particular launch is in a bar, so maybe not kids. But probably still with some lap-sitting.

Among our many plans (catching up with Newfoundland members Camille Fouillard and Wanda Nolan, going for a big big hike, drinking in the bars, cheering raucously at the reading), I have plans to steal some time for Fallsy Downsies. Our retreats are not usually so … urban … so I’ll have to be pretty clever about this, but I think the way I’m writing this particular book (scraps of paper, late at night, in public) lends itself well to what I expect this weekend will bring.

And as for Ryan’s book, I read it (again, for the first time between covers) whilst in the grips of not-Swine-Flu on the weekend. It was the perfect accompaniment for hours in bed alone, coming and going in delirium. During my lucid moments, it had me more breathless than the not-flu. Seriously. If you haven’t gone to get yourself a copy yet, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. It’s called What We’re Made Of, and it’s required reading.

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Obsession and Satisfaction

When I have it in mind to do a project, it is all I can think about. It was like that with Homing, when I was writing the first draft, though in that case I was obsessed with the statistics of it, how many words I could write per hour, and how many hours per day, and how long I could reasonably put it off and still finish by the end of November. NaNoWriMo and all. My god, six years ago right now I was just being ribbed by a good friend about my character who didn’t seem to want to leave the house, the ghost who seemed to be hanging around the library and the wafer thin plot that didn’t seem like it was going to be able to bring them together at all. She laughingly suggested homing pigeons. Maybe it desperation, or maybe divine inspiration. Doesn’t matter. I bit, and here we are.

Anyhow, while Kev is out of town, I have been passing the hours and days and weeks with cunning plans involving furniture placement, reconditioning and repurposing. This, I could do forever and be happy happy happy. Today, I recovered an ottoman. A truly ugly one I bought for four dollars at Value Village. I bought it a nineteen dollar curtain and some swish new legs, tapped some finishing nails into ‘er, and whaddya know,  I have a fabulous new foot stool. I couldn’t be happier. It’s not like me to actually finish a project, but there’s one done. I also painted a wall in our kitchen with blackboard paint… that one’s finished too. And I moved around eight pieces of furniture in all… no, sorry, ten… and those projects are not quite finished. Too many ripples with each piece. Gotta take everything out of it. Decide whether it’s being kept, trashed or given away. Find a new place for it, make sure it gets to the garbage or into the charity bin, depending on what you’ve decided. Sweep behind each piece you move because holy god, what breeds under credenzas these days? Arrange the piece just so, and fill it up again.

And so I am almost done. I have all this orphan stuff lying around, and I am going to sort it out tonight if it kills me. Which it might if those dust bunnies mass together and rise up.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I think I’m nesting. The bun in my oven is Fallsy Downsies, and I think this frantic and furious nest-feathering is the novel’s way of telling me it’s ready to be written.

Which is great news because my vegetable crispers could really use a cleaning, and I find nothing can keep me from writing once it’s time to write…nothing can take me back to the procrastination stage…except a vegetable crisper in need. Lock up your crispers, people, I’m about to write.


Draft eleventy-million

The differences between writing Homing-the-novel and Homing-the-screenplay are huge and many. Homing the novel was such a solitary endeavour, a feverish fugue of writing, thinking, some rewriting, more thinking, not quite enough rewriting and not quite enough thinking and then it was out and on the shelf and in my hand.

Homing the screenplay holy smokes. At this point, it’s still Homing-the-synopsis, and it’s already in its sixth, maybe seventh draft. It’s a painstaking process of honing and shaping and honing and shaping and paring and shaping and honing. With lots and lots of input from the team of producers and story editor/mentor. When you’re writing a novel there’s no one who says, “maybe that’s not how Leah gets the pigeons, maybe Charlotte doesn’t go down to the library.” Because, what the hell are you talking about, of COURSE that’s how she gets the pigeons. That’s what happens! With the screenplay, there’s a lot of what if she, and maybe she ought to, and perhaps he feels… and that’s pretty strange to me, to my process, to the kind of writer I am. They ask a lot of questions, and sometimes those questions make me defensive, and that’s usually when I notice that I feel edgy about not having the answers, which means there’s some work to do there.

So it’s quite a process. I think I’m getting better at it, but I can’t really be sure. Maybe I’m just making a bunch of new drafts, and putting some new error or hole in each one. Hard to say. It feels like a lot of concentric circles and not a lot of straight lines, and I am so all about going forward as a writer. So it’s a good learning opportunity, if that’s not too weeny a thing to say about it.

It is definitely affecting the way I talk about the book when I am called upon to read from it (which I have been rather a lot over the last couple of weeks. Weird little flurry of activity for wee Homing-the-novel). The process of writing the treatment and synopsis for the film have definitely clarified my intention around the characters and story line (such as it is) in the novel. Very interesting cross pollination. I don’t know whether it holds up for a new reader of the novel, who doesn’t have access to the emails that fly between me and the producers, a reader who hasn’t read all frillion drafts of the treatment and synopsis. But it is yet another life the novel has, and I am so interested in that. There’s the life it had while it was being written and published, before it belonged to anyone but me. Then it came out, and belonged to everyone but me, and so the story changed again, every time someone read it, and told me what they thought. And now, as the story gets processed to become a film, it changes again, becomes no longer mine, nor yours, but ours, this common material with so many fingerprints all over it.

I should hate the process, but I don’t. I really don’t. In fact, I kind of like it. Potentially famous last words, but for now, I like it.