Connective Tissue

Last night, I sat down and wrote the 2700 words necessary to put me over 50K. Officially, in NaNoWriMo terms, I am a winner.

The trouble, of course, is that the book isn’t finished. I estimate it’s somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 done. I’ve got a lot of setup, and a little action, and thanks to a NaNoWriMo inspirational email, I’ve got most of the ending.

Of course, what happens in between is kind of important, as is presenting it in a way that keeps the reader’s attention.

As it happens, I have always had a tendency to write vignettes. I have whole stories in my head for which I have never written anything more than a handful of key scenes, over and over. I am good at this, but in fairness, it’s pretty easy to start a scene when you can assume all necessary information has already been provided to your reader. If I find myself relying on a fact or event that I hadn’t considered before, I can simply tell myself “Yeah, okay, I’ll have to cover that somewhere else.” Scene is done, lots of words written – and no closer to an actual novel.

Connective tissue can be a real bear to write. It can be tedious. It can feel contrived, especially in those first drafts when you know you MUST provide particular details, and you end up stuffing a lot of data into a scene that really isn’t structured for it. For me, at least, it’s the hardest part of writing: keeping the path between scenes interesting, organized, and informative.

When I started on November 1, I was writing the story linearly. I wrote an introduction, most of which will have to be scrapped; but I wrote it, and it taught me a lot about what I did and didn’t need as setup for the story. In threading together some scenes that I had already outlined in detail, I ended up handing the point of view off to a character who was previously intended to stay in the background. He has helped me say some things that need saying without getting too dry and literal about it all.

(The trouble is I like him too much, and he’s sucking up more of my attention than he should for this story. Maybe I’ll write him a book next year.)

But then, a few days back, on the advice of someone I don’t actually know, I wrote the ending, and I outlined four interim scenes. I’ve written one and a half of those interim scenes, and I’m already over 50K.

On the one hand…yes, it is nice to have an ending. I always knew where the story was headed, but to have it on paper, even as a first draft, is really useful. On the other hand – boy, did I have to assume a lot of connective tissue to write the ending.

Between now and the end of the month I plan to write every day, but perhaps not so much (life, after all, must resume at some point). I figure if I set aside half an hour each night, I can write based on time rather than word count.

I still won’t finish this novel by November 30. I won’t even come close. But I might be able to write the scenes I have already sketched out…and then, maybe, I can outline the bits of connective tissue I am still missing.

It’s been a fascinating experience. Generally when I would stop writing, I would despair over the quality of what I had just done. But then I would read it over, and find it was not so bad. None of it is of anything like finished quality…but I am building a structure, a mood, an emotional arc. It’s not there yet, but I can see where it’s going.

The next four months of my life are going to be insanely hectic for a batch of non-writing reasons. I don’t know how much attention I am going to be able to pay to this new baby I have just produced. I will say, though…I like this one. It suffers from many of the things my writing often suffers from, including Too Many Nice People, and a need to have a happy ending. But I like my characters, and I think in the end I leave them in a reasonable place. They interest me, and I am hoping I can make them interesting to other people as well.

I will try to carve a little writing space out of my life, even if it’s not much. We’ll see where this one goes.

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