I finished the major revisions on Hole in the Coal-Black Sky last week and handed the manuscript off to my trusted editor (aka my wife). The text jumped from 74K to 81K words in the rewrite. My beloved beta-readers will have a new book to review soon.
This morning, I started work on the follow-up volume. It’s working title is The Prince of Elsewhere. My writing session this morning was a textbook illustration of the differences between spoken and written language, not to mention between visual intelligence versus the verbal. In my head, I tend to tell stories visually, with the occasional snippet of verbiage becoming audible amongst the images. Last night, as I drifted off to sleep, I could see the first chapter and even hear snippets of text. But, sitting down this morning, I ran into the ever-present neurosis that is the construction of the first sentence — those first words that set the tone and unbar the gates of the story.
I spent and hour writing and deleting and writing and deleting and growling and writing until I had something that approximated the image in my head and threw the floodgates wide. I was struck by how different the language I hear in my head and the language I read on a page actually are. If you’ve ever tried to learn a new language with Rosetta Stone, that lesson comes home very quickly. But, to watch the same phenomenon play out in your native tongue is a different experience entirely. Bridging that gap somehow will be the key to preventing the eventual insanity that can be induced by the first draft.
Charlie sat down, opened the small velvet bag that held the more delicate of her failsafe’s tools, and withdrew from it a jeweler’s glass which she proceeded to hold up to her left eye, squinting to hold it in place. She then tipped out the tiniest of screwdrivers and picked it up between her thumb and forefinger. Under the unblinking gaze of the jewelers glass, a miniature universe in brass opened itself up before her eyes. She focused her attention on the path of the clockwork from arbor to spring and out through wheels and bars and oscillators, and tried to hear the toy cricket’s song. To her unconscious ear, it sounded out a most delicate and complicated tune, a tiny fugue so delicately orchestrated that she had to strain to keep track of all its parts. After several minutes of staring and listening, she at last heard the song in its entirety, heard where its themes meant to go, heard how it should end, and glared like a manic conductor out over the orchestra of clockwork in search of the instrument that had stopped pulling its weight, thus making the entire symphony grind to a halt.
Charlie frowned, now, as she followed the music again and again until at last her eyes settled on one tiny flywheel in the neighborhood of the cricket’s hind legs that had slipped on its shaft. She closed her eyes for a moment to give them a rest, took a deep breath, and then started her work as she slipped the head of the screwdriver through the cricket’s innards with the greatest of care and gently levered the offending gear back into place. Charlie let out a deep and satisfied sigh as she felt the cricket’s song return to order, then took up the shining cover of the toy’s abdomen with a care that neared reverence and screwed it back into place with graceful, practiced fingers. Continue reading