Some things are just going to keep passing me by. That beautiful display of the aurora borealis? Yeah, that was too far north to see from here, by a matter of hours. The eclipse of the moon? Wrong hemisphere. First day of spring? We still have two feet of snow on the ground, it’s cold enough that any meltwater from the most recent warm day is currently sheer ice, and a thick cloud cover kept the sunshine away. This is very grumpy-making, as is month number six of having cold feet. Not even slippers are helping with the feet.
In my next house, I’m having heated floors installed.
Edits are proceeding apace. I’ve encountered some challenges — it’s been suggested that some parts could be trimmed down, and it’s always painful to kill my darlings, to use Stephen King’s term for cutting. I’m going to finish the little bits of clarification and accepting / rejecting changes through the rest of the manuscript before I tackle the trimming. Gives me time to contemplate what to keep and what to jettison. See, it’s tricky, because I see everything as important but I get that too much of a good thing can interfere with flow. On the other hand, some parts are meant to become significant later, as part of character development. If I trim the wrong thing, will a character’s momentum or revelation have less meaning or depth?
In the end, I get to make the choice. And no matter what I decide, there will be those who dislike it. I mean, a lot of people complained about the big section in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in which Harry, Ron, and Hermione wander about the woods for weeks, trying to suss out their next move. But it didn’t bother me, because it was true to form for the characters, and necessary to build to the next big discovery. I liked her choice in doing that. I’ve also seen it done in the Clan of the Cave Bear series, with long sections on setting or travel, and I will admit to sometimes skimming them — and then going back to reread when it became evident that important facts or descriptions were in the information dump.
Maybe — and I’m just throwing it out here — I write my environment. Like this spring, for example. In some places, the transition from winter to spring is quick and has already happened. Crocuses are pushing up through the last layers of snow. Brown stretches of grass showing baby green shoots. But here, where I’ve lived for sixteen years of my life (counting childhood), there’s a long middling period of waiting and contemplation. The excitement of winter activities has died off, worn down by day after day of bitter skies and colourless landscapes. You get used to being in a holding pattern, observing the signs and being able to say, when the warm weather does arrive and the next round of activities is rising, that we knew it was coming. Or that the long winter had us so fooled, spring really took us by surprise.
Do we write our environments? Are writers influenced by the physical world in which they’re living? In a way, it makes sense, if we’re writing what we know. I wonder if anyone’s ever made a study of literature written in different places and compared the flow and pace of each book. There are places in the world where I picture events and activity moving at a breakneck pace, with little relief — New York City, maybe, or Los Angeles, or London. And then there are places that move a little slower, where characters have the luxury of time and setting in which to mull their next move, and events coming up out of nowhere have that much more impact. Like in Salem’s Lot, for example, or Anne of Green Gables, or The Sentimentalists.
Or is there a difference between the flow and pace of Canadian and American novels? Is one (perceived as) more ________ than the other? Is there a socio-economic voice that writers come from or into that affects the style and tone of their work?
I do hope, by the way, that you’re not seeing this as me getting defensive. I’m just trying to work out what the right thing is to do for my work, and where the decision is going to come from, and the elements affecting it. Even the most slap-dash manuscripts are composed of words chosen with care and purpose. Thank heaven for the editor who is kind and wise enough to point out where something may not be working! It’s good to know these things. Better is knowing exactly what to do about them.
I’m as wishy-washy as this so-called “spring” weather. As back and forth as the temperature outside. I have chilly, pebbly slush in my metaphorical writing boots. My head is wrapped in layers of thick sleety cloud. I’m on page 152 of 260 and I have to stop for the night.
Any other writers out there feeling my pain?