Chez Shaffner

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Seeking Inspiration in Buffalo (?!?)

As I write today’s short entry, I find myself sitting in a hotel room in Buffalo, New York. Usually when I travel someplace that isn’t on everyone’s desired destinations list, I have work to do. Typically, I would be spending my lunch hour plotting the afternoon requirements gathering session and strategizing forthcoming deliverables. Instead, this trip I’m a tagalong (in other words, a moocher, not to be confused with the tasty Girl Scout Cookie). I’m here to write and provide Keryn with dinner-time companionship. The road can be a lonely place.

I’m listening to the soundtrack from Garden State (which kicks ass, by the way, especially track three), drinking Mountain Dew, and typing furiously. While the housekeeper stripped the bed a few minutes ago, I sat at the desk, finishing up the latest Normal Guy/Girl blog entry about Buffalo. After I finish today’s obligatory personal blog entry (Outlook keeps chirping at me!), I’m turning my attention to my novel.

As usual, I’m editing. In a wonderful twist, however, the thirty pages I’m red-lining today did not exist last Tuesday.

Actually, those thirty pages aren’t entirely new. One chapter existed before, drafted more than a year ago, but last week I re-wrote the whole thing from scratch, referring to the old draft purely for concepts. One or two sentences might have survived, but I really couldn’t say for sure. The resemblance is slender.

It is official: I’m in love with my novel again. And if I accomplish nothing else in the next three months, I will find out what happens to Billy Jones, whether he gets the girl and escapes Memphis (ME) unharmed.

You see, I’m flying without an outline. More than that, it would be fair to say I don’t have the faintest clue how the story ends. As the working days pass, I keep surprising myself. For example: midway through the chapter I’m editing today, I put two people in bed who were never supposed to end up in bed. It kind of just happened…the way it often does in real life. They’re totally wrong for each other, and putting them together throws all kinds of kinks into the plot. It is inevitable that Charlie will ditch Stacy within forty pages—he’s not looking for commitment—and that’s going to devastate any chance Billy has with Stacy’s friend Ginny. But there was no other way. Cheap beer and strong pot and a hot tub: craziness ensues.

When the story goes and goes without having to think through each step: that’s when I feel I’ve really found it. The feeling doesn’t always last long. Sometimes it’s fifteen minutes. Other times, two full hours. And in the rarest of cases, like last Wednesday night, it starts at eight p.m. and ends at four a.m., not because it wants to, but because my head crashes with exhaustion and bounces off the keyboard, my nose writing six pages of "jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj..." before I wake and groggily push the computer aside.

When those words pour out, it’s an amazing feeling. It’s the feeling I remember from my youth, when I didn’t have such a loud-mouth internal censor. Back then, I went wherever my characters took me, and I had a great time. Now I find it much harder to let go.

Hold on... Was that a twitch in my hand? It might be inspiration. I’d better go. Billy’s getting ready for his first date with Ginny...

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