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This is a strange week. Time is weird and stretcy. There have been some good moments, and a lot of foggy moments. Heather hasn't been sleeping well, and is probably getting sick. I don't think I'm sick, but I do have some sort of mental malaise, and I think it's because I'm in between novels. I haven't been writing much these past few days. I'm partway into a new story, but it's a comic piece about culture shock, community service, and death cults, and I think it's a little too light-and-quick for my current mood. I need something with more weight and depth and meat, I think.

So last night I sat down and started taking notes on my new novel. I'm starting to get a sense of the book's shape. I know who the protagonist is, and I have some tantalizing glimpses of other characters, and there have been some strong central images and motifs in my mind for a while. Last night I figured out some character names that I think will work -- Darrin Phare, Brigitte Wordlaw, Ismael Plenty, Nicolas Cloke, Orville Troll. I have some sense of who they are (protagonist, girlfriend, villain, best friend, tangentially significant x-factor figure). Names are important to me, for reasons I have difficulty articulating. I can't write a book until I have names that feel right. It's less of a problem with stories, for some reason -- perhaps because I don't have to live with the characters for so long. John Gardner wrote that changing a character's name can change the entire nature of a novel, and I think there might be some truth in that, under some circumstances, though again, I have difficulty articulating why.

I went back and read some articles that had gotten me thinking about this book, stuff about the Jim Jones memorial/mass grave in Oakland, about suicide rates on the golden gate bridge, other things. I listened to "Bridges" by Utah Phillips & Ani DiFranco. I jotted down lines and words and little notes to myself.

Then I wrote the first two pages of the book, the first scene. That scene will almost certainly be thrown away during revision, but that's not important, not right now -- because suddenly I'm in. The novel has opened up. I'm no longer standing outside this blank edifice, staring at the impenetrable walls. I'm inside, shining a light around in the dark corridors beyond, and I'm already discovering things in there.

And, yeah, I feel a lot better now. I'll keep working on this book, which we shall for now call the Bridges book. Sometime soon I'll do revisions on Rangergirl, and I'm working on revisions to Blood Engines now, but it's good for me to be starting something new. It makes me feel awake, and alive, and engages my mind in a fundamentally different way than revision does.

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