Writing is an experience.
Sometimes, the trip is quick and decisive. Before NaNoWriMo ever happened, I had written a full-length novel in thirty days. It was, I think, a God-thing. Was it my best work? Not from my current perspective, but at the time? Yes.
Sometimes, the trip is long but easily mapped. Like following the progression of Elizabeth Bennet throughout Pride and Prejudice. There is a starting place, easily-found stops along the road, and an ending place. (This is not belittling one of my favorite novels of all time; this is merely to illustrate a concept.)
Sometimes, though, the experience of writing feels more like experiencing The Lord of the Rings from the perspective of Pippin or Merry. There’s a huge CONCEPT and you can feel so SMALL and it’s baffling. And then ORCS drag you off and you’re totally out of control. Hopefully, in the end, you can look forward to a good dinner.
In such cases as these, I think it’s helpful to have a map.
For most of the past fifteen years that I’ve been endeavoring to be a working writer, my maps have been outlines. However, on my current project, I’ve been baffled. I’ve certainly referenced maps before as a writer, but for this project, I have had to actually buy one and post it to my wall and make notes on it.
Because here, for me, is a real challenge. Rather like entering grad school and finding that I had to learn how to study, after years of learning without putting a huge amount of effort into it. Plotting my version (historical fiction, remember) of the main character of this novel was a lot easier in my head than it turned out to be as I uncovered new sources (there aren’t many, but I’m finding them) and tried to include them in the story, while including the lives and loves of the other characters of the Éire’s Viking Trilogy.
So, the map to the left is how I’ve been working this out. This is Sandi as Merry, trying to navigate my way with arrows and place-names, with conflicting dates and dry erase markers.
And this hasn’t even touched on the relationship issues that will arise in this, the final book of the trilogy…
Like the best of adventures, this one is teaching me a great many things and I do appreciate it. Nothing really teaches like experience.