November 8th, 2002

abstract butterfly

in the fells

"I will go to Mordor", Frodo said, "though I do not know the way".

I crossed the 35,000 word mark on my novel this morning. I am amazed at how few pages 35,000 words really absorbs. Yet my plot just went down the road I thought was still 10,000 or so words away. My "ending" just turned into my "late middle", so I will have to see where the rest of the story leads. I wonder if I should do more with the species of intelligent whales in the story.

So far, I have eschewed outlining, character study, elaborate plotting and all the other trappings of a novel. I've managed to avoid stream of consciousness so far, but I believe that is more a function of having no ear for consciousness. I have a good ear for the simple first person inanity of life, and that is the way my novel reads.

I thought a bit about genre before I began this book. It seemed to me that science fiction would be a good shell for my novel, because every time I needed a plot device, I could just invent new technology to provide it. The experience has been good to teach me that the genre is less important than the problem of driving the narrative.

I never appreciated the power of isolation until I began to write it down. We are all such self-contained universes. Granted, we must interact, because our biology requires that contact, that touching. But our minds, this sentience we develop as we evolve, this is a very individual thing. I appreciate the power of a congregation singing a church hymn, or a shared discussion on a matter of intellect, in a way I never did until I created a character who will spend essentially 50,000 words describing how he feels, or, more importantly, fails to feel.

I am arguably too attracted to the anthill analogy for human conduct. It's over-simplistic to think that if we just have our roles and do them, we are better off. But on some level, I think we do need to have that interface with others and with a meaning in life, or we just fall into despair. I am attracted to the idea of a divine plan. I am also attracted to the idea that we create our own meaning in life. Although the concepts are not congruous, they somehow interlock for me.

What if society solved all the "big problems"--war, hunger, disease, death. Would that solve the "human problem"? I don't think so. The great human problem is meaning. Perhaps the physical problems must be solved before we address the problem of meaning, but the problem of meaning will exist long after we are all fed and happy.

I have created a character in a novel whose obsession and salvation is a slender reed of communication. It's a sad story, I suppose, though nothing untoward arises in the communications. His problem is that he sees his dilemma. To name something is not to conquer it, but rather only to see it, and pause. Imagine a man who rambles for 50,000 words on the problem of self-created meaning. That is my novel.

But I am only seventy percent done. I must finish the book, so that I can see what he learns. I was tempted to actually outline some plot, to simplify the drafting, and perhaps I will. But I do not want my desire to finish the novel permit me to lose the value in drafting it bit by bit. All wisdom may indeed be clouded by desire, like a mirror by dust.

I see Mount Doom in the distance, but I must wander a bit more terrain before I am able to cast away this ring.
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