Stephanie Burgis
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So, I was about midway through Chapter Nineteen of Music of the Stars, two nights ago, when the realization of disaster hit: damn it, I think I've taken a wrong turning with the plot for this novel. And it may have happened a little while ago. But when? I don't know, but ever since then I've been reading and re-reading what I've written, trying to pinpoint the moment when things started feeling wrong, characters started saying things they wouldn't really say just to fit my idea of the plot, and something deep in my gut started twinging nervously. I was talking to another writer yesterday about how you nearly always know when something you've written doesn't work, because there's a "Mee-yah" feeling in your gut--this image may work better when spoken out loud instead of written down!--but unfortunately, we rarely stop writing at that point, because we want to believe that it's working...and it's much harder to go back afterwards and unpick the whole damn thing until we get to where things went wrong.

Of course, the lovely thing about the physical ailment I'm currently living with is that I now see labyrinths everywhere, and they've become my prime metaphor for everything in life. (I have this little image of a search party in my brain that's trying to find its way out of the labyrinth even as I type--every time it takes a right turning, I feel a little better, and every time it chooses the wrong path, I get really dizzy and sick again. It really does seem to explain the on-again, off-again nature of the yuckiness.) So, of course, I'm envisioning the novel-in-progress as a progress through the labyrinth, and somewhere along the way, I turned off in the wrong direction and have been making all sorts of now-pointless choices based on having been in the wrong part of the maze all along. This is very depressing. Even worse, we've run out of chocolate, so my prime source of self-comfort is missing.

Sigh.

However, I did run across a wonderful essay on writing when you're feeling blocked by Justine Larbalestier, which made me laugh and also made me want to read her first YA novel, Magic or Madness, whenever or wherever I finally see it in a bookshop. (Possibly not until I go to America in May.) And the book I'm reading (during my ten-hours-a-day on the sofa) is fascinating and fun: Edward Rice's Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: The Secret Agent Who Made the Pilgrimage to Mecca, Discovered the Kama Sutra, and Brought the Arabian Nights to the West. The book itself is, in many ways, as blatantly Orientalist as Burton himself was--I keep re-checking the date on the inside front cover (1990) in shock as I come across lines about the 'essential violence, decadence and sensuality of India' (ahem ahem)--but it's remarkably entertaining anyway, and definitely worth a read just for the weird and interesting events of Burton's life. Not a nice guy, or a particularly ethical person, but very, very interesting.

Now back to the sofa so I can stare at my own novel and rip a bit more of my hair out over it...


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