Last November I entered an essay contest at The Atlantic Monthly. The notice about the results was in the January/February issue and I just checked the website to see if my essay was one of the winners.
They chose 25 essays as winners out of 400 submissions for the contest. Those who would like to read the winners, click here: www.theatlantic.com/essays.
For the last month or so, I’ve been doing research as I’ve come upon things I’ve needed to know for the first draft of Perceval in Love (book 3). I have finished the Helsinki chapters and Evan is now back in Vienna. Another location came up — a fictitious Greek island. I’ve pulled images of Greek islands off the internet to use as reference. Evan stays in Vienna for awhile which will give me time to do the necessary research for the St. Petersburg, Russia chapters at the end and to make the decisions I need to make about the action there. Another research topic came up – slow-acting poison. I am tempted, since the book is set in 2049, to make up a poison, something synthetic that will do what I need for it to do for the narrative. I know of a couple substances used beneficially that can be lethal in large doses, but I think they are unpredictable regarding the time they take effect, i.e. would kill someone. I need a bit more predictability. Ah, the advantages of working in fiction…. I can always finish the draft and research the poisons afterward when I have a better idea of the timing of that particular death.
Ongoing Research: I’ve now finished, for the moment, the periodic research on building career and repertoire for conductors. I’ve been gleaning a lot of good information from the Minnesota Orchestra’s Inside the Classics blog and conductor Sarah Hatsuko Hicks’ posts (thank you, Ms. Hicks!).
An issue has come up for book 3 that involves conducting Shostakovich, especially in rehearsal. I am thinking of asking permission to observe two working (not dress) rehearsals of the Minnesota Orchestra in a month or two. In two consecutive weeks, they will perform two different Shostakovich symphonies and I’d like to see and hear how the two different conductors rehearse that composer’s music for ideas for Evan. Before I make the request, however, I want to make certain that I’ll need to observe the rehearsals so I’m glad I have some time to figure that out. Evan will rehearse the Shostakovich 8th Symphony in St. Petersburg, and I’m beginning to see that it will be a pivotal scene for his character, the end of the second act, the moment when all looks lost. I’d like the music to also reflect that and have him recognize it in the music somehow…..
Other research: I’ll pick up the Perceval’s Shadow research when I return to that book for a rewrite. I’ve got my hands full with book 3′s needs.
I think Book 4 will be set mostly in Canada and America, so I won’t have as much location research to do, but I may need to read more about future trends for these countries.
Posted in Classical Music, Conductors, Fiction, Research, Updates, Writing
Tagged Greek island, Inside the Classics, Minnesota Orchestra, orchestra, rehearsals, Sarah Hatsuko Hicks, Shostakovich, symphony
Yesterday, that tingling feeling cascaded down from the crown of my head to my toes again while I was writing. One character in particular had triggered this wonderful cascade. This sensation tells me each time I’ve experienced it that I’ve had a creative breakthrough of some sort and what I’ve learned is absolutely right. I feel the rightness viscerally — that tingling feeling — bypassing my brain.
I had not done my usual character prep work on the triggering character – she’s new to the Perceval books — as an experiment. I wanted to discover her as I wrote. I usually discover additional personality traits and backstory anyway as I write the characters I’ve done prep for, but this was like snorkeling in unfamiliar waters. I had begun the third book, in which she appears, with certain ideas about her, most of which have remained. But the thing that changed was a piece of backstory, i.e. who her father was. I had thought he was a security operative. Yesterday, while writing a scene between her and Evan Quinn, it suddenly hit me — the security operative wasn’t her father. No. Her father was a high-ranking politician in her home country (not America). And Evan had had an encounter with her father in book 1 that would cause her to hate Evan. Oh, my. I had just deepened her motivation for her behavior toward Evan and complicated his life. I love it when that happens. I’ve learned it can’t be forced or predicted or planned. It happens when it happens and I need to be open everyday to it.
On book 1, I had a huge breakthrough after writing 9 or 10 drafts and I’d written a rough draft screenplay to solve structure problems. Suddenly, the relationship between Evan and Vasia Bartyakov changed toward the end of the book in a way I hadn’t anticipated at all. My imagination just thrust it onto the page. I was shocked, upset. I couldn’t continue writing that day. But I had that tingling feeling again. I knew my imagination was right. When I returned to that chapter the next day, I ran with the change. As I worked on book 2, I realized that change in their relationship would haunt Evan’s life for the rest of the series and give his development momentum.
I now call my imagination “The Tingler.” Unlike the horror movie monster of the same or similar name, I have nothing to fear from this Tingler…..
Happy New Year!
At this time last year, I was working on chapters 5 and 6 of the first draft of Perceval’s Shadow. This year, I’m working on chapter 6 of Perceval in Love’s first draft. I have broken the 100-page mark so I’m about a quarter of the way through. My target is 20-25 chapters and approximately 400 manuscript pages, which would translate when published into a 267-300 page hardcover book, depending on type, etc.
With chapter 6 I’ve also exhausted my current outline. I don’t write from a complete outline but I know how the story will end, so I know what I’m writing toward. I usually write ideas for chapters as I go along. The first 4 or 5 chapters come easily. They are the set-up (Act 1). Once I’ve entered Act 2 territory, the terrors set in and I slow down until I figure out the structure and conflicts in this middle section. What helps is to ask myself constantly what each character wants and what he/she will do to get it. What stands in the way? To complicate matters for PIL, I’m writing alternating points of view between Evan and Sofia. So, there are 2 parallel stories that will converge at the end (Act 3).
The next week or so I’ll probably be working on writing ideas for the next 4-5 chapters and organize them. This requires quiet thinking time in addition to my regular writing time.