Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve kinda been avoiding writing. I had a realization while in Maine that the book I’m writing that takes place in Maine needs MAJOR revisions to be right. And I’ve been loathe to do it. It just feels like difficult work, you know?
But I watched the Ursula K. LeGuin documentary on PBS, and was as inspired as I usually am by her work and life. She was such a force of nature, and an empowering one as a mother of three who published genre-bending work when her children were small. Also, it took her almost twenty years of writing stuff and submitting it before she broke into the profession. It gives me hope. She was doing difficult work with children. I can do difficult work with children.
Which is to say that I’ve been writing a bunch the last few days. The book is better than I remember it, but still needs plenty. I’ve been mostly pondering profluence. It’s easy to write a pretty scene, to play with the language in a sentence and come up with something that sounds fun. It’s not that hard to add concrete details that characterize a person, either. I’m even getting passable at dialogue. But what IS hard is profluence.
“Explain what that means again,” Brian said when I started talking to him about it yesterday. Because right now the novel doesn’t have it.
Profluence is a fancy word for the sense you get in a novel that the novel is moving forward and progressing. It’s a complicated combination of your trust for the author (do they seem to have a plan?), the pacing of the scenes, the way you’ve dropped foreshadowing in or not, even the way you’ve organized many scenes in a row. It’s a separate thing from the plot and the prose, and it’s hard to get right. Sometimes it’s even harder to figure out why your work doesn’t have it.
I’m going through that now, because I don’t really know what’s wrong. The novel feels like someone is alternatively putting their foot on the gas and then letting the narrative slow before giving it another burst again. Hot and cold, slow and fast, too much info and not enough, characters behaving unevenly.
We’ll see. How do you fix this? Just try stuff until something seems to help, I think. That’s the only thing that’s ever worked for me in the past. I’ll be lengthening a few scenes and rearranging a few more. And if that doesn’t help I can always put them back where they used to be, right? (I can. I save drafts like it’s my job).
Maybe people who are more experienced than I am don’t have these moments where they’re floating around in the dark and stabbing at things willy-nilly. But I almost always get to a point in a novel where I am.
I’m not sure I had a real point to this post except to say that it feels right to be sitting down and letting the words flow again, to be weaving the threads of a story and pondering big theoretical writing concepts.
I guess I have Ursula K. LeGuin to thank for that. As I have had so many times in the past.
The documentary really was great. It’s on American Masters and you can get it online if you don’t have PBS as a channel. Just saying.