The Things I Know

It happened again.

I was doing my daily 1,000 words on Soultainted. Aside from our two-week road trip, I’ve been doing those words pretty much every day. I’m finding that focusing for half an hour or an hour on doing the words seems to wake up my brain. Maybe I’m finally starting to understand why some writers start every day with words…

This meme has nothing to do with my post. It’s just my favorite.

In any case, once again, I was writing along and stumbled onto a fact about a character that I knew as surely as I know that the sun will rise tomorrow. I can’t tell you how I knew. All I can tell you is that this fact was a revelation to some of the characters in the scene, but that as soon as I typed it, I knew it was true in that world.

This has happened before. It happened just a few weeks ago during my morning writing session, only that time was even more arcane and even a revelation to me. That time, I almost came out of my chair with an “aha! Now I get it!” kind of reaction.

(I think my actual notes on that portion of the book look like something a middle school girl would write.)

But it’s happened even before that. In the course of working on The Taurin Chronicles, this kind of thing has happened more often than I can remember. I couldn’t hazard a guess as to how often.

There’s no rhyme or reason to it, either. Sometimes, I’m completely in the zone, writing like a madwoman, and the words just flow out of my fingers and I know they’re true. Other times, I’m staring into space and struggling to come up with “and,” and the knowledge just pops up like a Jack-in-the-Box that finally triggered the latch.

Sometimes I think I know where the words are going, and the “new” knowledge changes things, but in a “oh, that’s so much better–now I see what was going on there” kind of way. Other times, I have no idea what I’m going to do with that part, but the knowledge just shows up and guides me through some thorny problem and makes perfect sense.

The thing about this weird phenomenon is that it’s always some kind of knowledge that I didn’t consciously have before, but that somehow makes perfect sense in the world I’ve created with the clues I’ve planted along the way.

This is the part of the writing process that seems the most like wizardry or magic or alchemy to me. This is what I mean when I say things like “I write to find out what happens.”

How is it possible that my brain already knows things that I haven’t written? And moreover, how is it possible that my brain has already worked out problems I didn’t even know I would run into?

There are some logical answers, of course.

I’ve been working on this world and these books for almost ten years, and the seeds of the idea were there three years earlier. I’ve lived with these people for thirteen years. That’s a long time for it all to be cooking in my cerebral crockpot. It seems inevitable that some connections would be made that I’m not even aware of.

Some might also point out that I’ve been reading myths, legends, and fantasy stories for decades. Some of those tropes are going to be rattling around in my brain, adding flavor to the stories I’m creating. Likewise my random theological studies and interest in anthropology, history, and culture.

There’s also this from The New York Times. Maybe I’ve written so many words and stories at this point that my brain thinks I’m an “expert” or “professional” writer, and there’s a whole bunch of stuff deep inside my brain that scientists haven’t even figured out how to measure yet.

(I confess that I would not be surprised to find a lot of things in my brain that no scientist can explain.)

J. K. Rowling said, “Sometimes the ideas just come to me. Other times I have to sweat and almost bleed to make ideas come. It’s a mysterious process, but I hope I never find out exactly how it works.” She’s a better woman than I, because I would kind of like to know how it works (even though I probably wouldn’t understand it).

But even if I could know how it works, would it make a difference?

Would it mean more to readers to know which ideas were the spontaneous solutions that came from the Muse and which ones were borne of blood, sweat, tears, and a dozen drafts?

I look back at all the words I’ve written in this world so far, and I can recognize a couple of the things that just came to me all of a sudden, but mostly? All I see is one story that I’ve tried to make as coherent and consistent as possible.

And that is the mysterious beauty of it–that somehow, somewhere in my head, all of this stuff connects in some relatively coherent, consistent way, just waiting to be discovered by writer and reader alike.

It almost makes me believe in the multiverse. It makes me think that Connor, Mairead, Braedan, Igraine, Minerva, Logan, and all the rest are just sitting there in some universe, their stories already written, waiting for me to usher them into this world.

Alchemy, indeed.

Update on The Taurin Chronicles:

  • I did not manage to read through the new print formatting of Bloodbonded yet. Working on it… stay tuned…
  • No changes on Unquickened: it’s still in the mental slow cooker.
  • Soultainted is now at about 65,000 words. Yay!

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