It’s 5 a.m.! Do you know what I am?
That’s right! Awake.
My beautiful angel baby was hungry at 2:45 a.m. this morning. She was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, smiling and cooing and doing all the cute baby stuff that makes the maternal heart melt. Are you wide awake, baby girl? That’s okay! Whatever you want, because MAMA LOVES YOU! YES I DO! JE T’ADORE ! I LOVE YOUR SMILE! …
Oh, pardon me. I’m back.
I do not lie when I say that parenting and writing are complementary vocations:
2:45 a.m. – Wake up to quietly-but-persistently fussing baby.
2:46 a.m. – Change baby’s diaper. Realize baby is alert. Accept that I will not be returning to bed any time soon.
2:50 a.m. – Nurse baby. Turn on night light, open Magnificat, and say morning prayers and meditate while nursing the baby.
3:03 a.m. – Finish nursing. Take baby downstairs so as not to disturb sleeping husband.
3:04 a.m. – Turn up the heat in this %#&@! cold house.
3:05 a.m. – Turn on kettle for tea. Take medications. Drink water. Pour cereal.
3:12 a.m. – Eat breakfast. Snuggle cooing baby.
3:20 a.m. – Clear table. Retrieve writing materials.
3:23 a.m. – Open notebook and begin sketching GMCs for 14 different scenes.
Did you see that? I’m back to working on the novel! And all because Mimi decided that 2:45 a.m. was a perfectly good time to wake up. (And don’t feel sorry for me about the lack of sleep. I had over six hours.)
I’ve come to realize that the first draft of my novel is really, truly an “exploratory” draft. While I admire the NaNoWriMo, write-by-intuition-and-the-seat-of-your-pants model of drafting, I thought I was writing my first draft like a true plotter: with notes and an outline. But even plotters can be explorers in the very act of writing, too. Plot, explore, plot, explore, plot, explore… and then revise and revise and revise and copy edit and send to beta readers and revise some more. As if I know anything about revision.
Reading Robert McKee’s Story has helped me with this process. I’m focusing on crafting scenes with (as he calls it) progressive complications: when my protagonist encounters a conflict, her actions toward overcoming that conflict must yield greater and greater conflict. Right now my story sags in places, especially between the midpoint and the 75% turning Point, because the conflict isn’t increasing. But this, McKee reminds us, is when we storytellers lose the reader’s interest.
My problem is that I haven’t found the right event, the right battle, between the protagonist and antagonist to place at that section’s pinch point, the halfway mark between the midpoint and the turning point. Something must happen between the two characters, but I don’t know what that something is yet. So I’m back to exploratory plotting, sitting and pondering and taking notes with pen and paper.
In the past I would have been frustrated by this. Today, I’m having fun.
See? Being a parent isn’t the End of All Creative Pursuit. Perhaps it’s just the beginning.