Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006: You Were Awesome, Smell Ya Later

Well, Blogger's pushing me to switch to their new version by hobbling the old one, and I'll be forced into it. Even posting this holiday-themed photo of the skyline from our balcony has been a nightmare. I'll conform. Tomorrow. But posting today, for the last time this year, I'm using my Christmas laptop for the first time! Surprisingly, my five year-old one doesn't really stink, but this new one is much more mobile and cleanly designed, with a better set of capabilties and horsepower. I look forward to being able to do much more multimedia-- like posting videos and audio podcasts-- next year.

2006 was actually a pretty great year, feeble in personal woes and strong in progress. I hope it's been so for you, but if not, it's over. Onward and upward. I'm going to try to continue to get narrow and deep, like the Marianas Trench, merging my disparate activites into more central places where they can all feed each other. I'm looking forward to new audiences and playing around with enhanced bells and whistles, especially since my regular readers all have new machines that simply gobble up the higher bandwidth goodies. I expect to revise a bunch of things, migrate some to a different web site, and get a little more frequent, if a little more focused, in my posting. Oddities will remain, however. What's life without wonder?

Also, in the last couple of days, as a sort of late Xmas gift (yet certainly before Three Kings Day), I finally got an idea (THE IDEA) for my next stand-alone suspense novel. It's a tremendous Whew. Now that an agent's repping the first, a prospective publisher might want another in a similar vein, or at least might consider one with the same sort of tone and approach. My agent asked me what else I had or thought might be next. Well.... uh.... What do you think they'd like? I had nothing. Sure, I have my comic/absurdist/mystery thing I'm working on, something I love but which is weird enough that it'll have to sell itself after completion, and I might need a pseudonym depending upon how distracting to my non-existent career it's considered. Problematically, it's also not easily prepackaged or even explained, but I think if I don't disappoint myself and take my time (simple enough since nobody wants it), it could be fantastically entertaining and I'd be very proud to see that. However, every time until last Friday that I thought about writing a follow-up thriller, I just felt a hollow bonging in my skull. To feel barren of ideas is anxiety-making in the extreme for someone who's supposed to be full of 'em, but I tried to stay calm while waiting for something to happen. And a notion did emerge, in the manner it does for me, almost fully formed.

A few years ago, the manuscript-now-for-sale's plot came up over lunch at Bennigan's with my Ideal Reader, and after bullet-proofing the motives and action through the back-and-forth tennis of "What if?", I wrote up a chapter-by-chapter outline that evening, just a paragraph of the important stuff in each one so I wouldn't forget. Over the course of writing and revision, things changed and were added and refined, but if you read that outline today, the eventual novel's storyline is unmistakeable, and all the juiciest surprises would be wrecked for you.

So last Friday night over steak with my previous plot collaborator, into existence sprang a new idea, starting with a simple solution to one basic problem. Since I'm no law enforcement/emergency procedure/medical/legal expert, if I set the next book in Manhattan versus anywhere else, how do I keep a story of dramatic content including death (deaths?) from being quickly swept into one giant institutional flow or another about which I can't and don't wish to write? And I conceived an answer based on circumstances which have always felt to me as magical as they are dangerous. Perhaps greatest of all, the story also includes another theme/setting that I had seriously intended to use a year or two ago and had therefore researched with great interest, even developing highly-regarded and knowledgeable contacts in that industry as resources. Then, I had some characters rattling around in my mind, but I couldn't ever spark the story into independent motion. Discouragingly, the bones of the storyline never soldified, and it never jumped to its feet and sprinted. At a certain point, for me, the story I want to tell has to start leaping ahead with possibilities faster than I can keep up. I'll imagine conversations, lines of observations, flashes of scenes that overlap and begin interlinking as they pop into being, all jockeying for position in my final scheme.

In my experience, if ever a story "writes itself", it's now. Once my ideal plan exists and is documented, the work of making sure my Wren cathedral blueprint doesn't finally manifest itself as an outhouse is sheer, arduous labor. That's why I have to love the idea so much, because writing it purely sucks. That's my process, different than other people's and I daily wish I sat scribbling like them with joy in my heart, but this is how my deal works. And it does eventually work, no matter how gruesomely my sausages are made. Anyway, that fabulous compunding, metastasizing story effect happened to me Friday night, and the additions and enhancements have continued through today, like a rock sugar crystal that's added elegant structures and strength every time I think to look at it.

If you don't care about all my personally blathery B.S., enjoy Dave Barry's year-end wrap-up as ye may.
Long link form to copy-and-paste instead of nifty short form (or color or bold) since Blogger's pulling the old carpet runner out on me.

Next year, the look of things here will be new, if I can't guarantee they'll be improved. My affections toward you, dear pals, are nothing new and cannot be improved upon. To a cheery 2007!

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