I spent this weekend in Princeton at the New Jersey SCBWI fall craft conference. I really enjoyed it. I learned some things at the workshops, including some great sources for incorporating a new plotline into an existing novel (thank you, Yvonne Ventresca!), some other great resources for writing historical fiction (thank you, Darlene Beck Jacobson!), and what an objective correlative is. (Thank you, Meg Wiviott!) I met some very nice people. But here is the best part.
As you may know from prior posts, I'm adding a new character and a new plotline to my novel. I know the character now, and I knew much of how (although not exactly where) she would be introduced into the story. The problem was that although I had figured out how she would (or would not) be involved with the main character for the three months following her entrance onto the scene, the main story line continued for another seven months from that point, and I had to somehow make myself know what would happen to her for the rest of that time frame. And I didn't have a clue.
Until yesterday. I spent all day Saturday attending workshops, and I'd planned to do the same all day yesterday, but at about 10:30 I looked over the list of available workshops again, and not one of them grabbed me. So I decided that rather than attend any one of them, I could use my time more productively by actually writing.
I walked over to the building where lunch was going to be served, found myself a comfortable chair in the entrance hall, took out a pad and pen (because I hadn't brought my laptop with me), and sat down to think about my character and what she needed to do from October to April.
EUREKA!! Suddenly, after weeks of fruitless scratching around in the deep recesses of my brain for ideas, I just knew. I knew the main thing that had to happen, and as soon as I knew that, it became obvious what had to happen in order to lead up to it, as well as what had to follow it. I repeat: I just knew. And I started to write. And I didn't stop until people started streaming into the building for lunch.
This has never happened to me before: a writing puzzle solving itself before my very eyes, and making it look effortless. And so I'm chalking the experience up to my having been immersed in the magical brew of this conference, from my toes right up to and including my brain, which for that hour and a half magically swelled into a superbrain. Exactly long enough. And though, sadly, my brain has now reverted back to its very nonsuper self, I know with 100% certainty that all the ideas I came up with were absolutely right for the story, and that in fact they were the only ideas that could have been right. And for the life of me, I can't understand how I could have failed to see all of it in the weeks leading up to the conference, when there were so many ENORMOUS clues already existing inside my manuscript, if I had only bothered to look.
What's that elixir that Harry Potter swallows at some point in one of the books (I can't remember if it made it into any of the movies) that suddenly gives him perfect, almost Godlike clarity of vision, so that in an instant, he knows exactly what he has to do and exactly when he has to do it? I seem to remember that it involved Harry's marching down immediately to Hagrid's hut, although he couldn't have said why, and its turning out (of course) to be exactly, but exactly, what he needed to do at that precise moment - I believe it was to overhear a conversation which then required him to take action in order to save Hagrid from a terrible calamity that would otherwise have befallen him.
Well, it was like that. And you know what else? At this point, the magic has lasted for a day and a half. Pretty potent stuff, wot? Because today I was on jury duty, which is something I dread every time it happens (and it happens to me a lot) because I know full well that I will waste my time traipsing from one courtroom to another but that (as a criminal defense lawyer) I will never ever make it onto a jury panel. But today - today - as soon as the orientation session ended, I sat myself down in the computer room with my laptop, and I wrote and wrote and wrote all day, and not once did I get summoned to a courtroom in order to sit through the tedious selection process, only to be bounced off the panel and sent back to the jury assembly room to go through the whole thing all over again an hour or two later. Not ONCE. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and it flowed and flowed and flowed.
I can be a real cynic, and it's not often you'll catch me saying this, so listen up: I do believe in magic. I do. I do. I do.