Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ghosts of Novels Past

I keep a notebook, as any good writer should do. It's there for me to jot ideas in when they occur to me at a time and place where I can't implement them, or simply have no use for them. (I once came up with what I believe is a lovely pastorally poetic line in the little boys' room at a Barnes and Nobles. I haven't used it yet, but it's there.) It's not a fail-safe, as the ideas have to be written down in order to be recorded, and they have to be written so that I can read and decipher them later. A failure on both counts has occurred more than once.

After jotting something down the other day, it occurred to me that I've reached the point where I ought to figure out a way to organize what's in it. Far beyond that point, really, but the easiest solution for me is using different colors. I keep pens of different colors on hand anyway as a holdover habit from my teaching days, and color-coordinating would provide the visual clues I work best from.

Besides, it's pretty.

As I was flipping back through the pages - occasionally scratching my head over an entry - unsurprisingly the bulk of the entries were for what is now the completed novel. (Not my first overall but the first that's worth doing something with.) I spent the better portion of a decade and a half with that book in my head, working on it in various incarnations, so if the notebook - which I've had about half that time - wasn't packed with notes and ideas on that book, it would probably be a sign I wasn't thinking about it enough.

I didn't read through all of it, but I noticed some things that I had once contemplated that were, in the end, left in the notebook. Other items are things that have found there way into the subsequent work, which is set in the same universe. (In a small-scale "world of my own making" meaning of universe. I'm not Herbert or Asimov.) Some of what I had written down was bits of dialog I was trying to make work, or descriptions of items I'd had ideas on in the name of world-building. It was funny to see how something I had reduced to a single, non-descript line to fuel a necessary plot event had at one point taken up an entire page in the notebook.

Though I point out it's a small notebook, 8 1/2 by 5 1/2. It seems a size that suits me, as I use a similar size for my freelance notebooks. Those are one per project though, unlike the writing one which acts as a catch all.

It just felt a little odd to be looking at notes for something which was no longer an active effort, creatively speaking. Sure, I'm agonizing over the query, and hoping like heck I won't have to write a synopsis, but the work itself has sat, largely untouched and unmessed with, since I put it through the editing process and pulled it out the other side. I'm not a tweaker, and once something is done, it's done, and now in it's wake it leaves all those unused notes.

Maybe some of them will be resurrected later, but I suspect most of them will be lovingly packed up and tucked away (metaphorically speaking - the notebook stays out), taken out only occasionally to be reminisced over before being set aside once more. Not all ghosts are restless ones.

1 comment:

KLM said...

What a lovely post, verging on poetic. It reminded me of one of the best pieces of advice I ever got about writing -- and probably life: nothing is ever wasted. Some ideas stand on their own, some ideas lead you to other ideas, and some ideas just curl up for a long, cozy nap inside your notebook. :)