Monday, December 28, 2009

Little Miss Sunshine Strikes Again

WRITING UPDATE: See below. Overall good!

There is a Little Miss Sunshine moment in this post, but it may not be the Little Miss Sunshine moment you think :)

On Boxing Day (yes, most Irish people do call it St. Stephen's Day. Fear not, Wikipedia has not lied, I am just weird) I finished up a huuuuge section of my novel. Note the extra u's in that word. They are supposed to denote the hugeness.

Sometimes, when I get to a difficult bit in my novel, that I'm not sure how to finish, I *ahem* skip it.

I know I shouldn't, but it often seems like a better idea than staying, blocked and stuck, on the difficult bit for weeks on end. Instead, I write what comes next, and that gives me a better idea of where I need to go with the unfinished bit.

In this case, a marriage between two characters had been suggested by their parents, the girl was opposed to the idea, she hit on a fairly ingenious way of making sure the marriage would not go ahead, and I got stuck. I wasn't sure how to resolve it. Her parents had to cave in. Then we fade out for six years.

So I skipped it. I resumed the story six years on, which gave me a good idea how this event fitted into the lives of the characters, and how much narrative weight I should give it. And when I finished that aforementioned huge section on Boxing Night, there was just one piece of unfinished business - the unresolved non-engagement. I was on a roll - I wanted to write more, but I had run out of plot. So I went looking for that part of the novel, among several files on my laptop.

No sign.

I hadn't typed it up.

At the time I wrote that bit, I was writing by hand. I don't do this much anymore - only if I have an especially fabulous, evocative or atmospheric notebook. But when I started writing this novel after a long writing hiatus, I started again by hand, and I clung superstitiously to writing by hand for quite a while - about six months. And I thought I had transcribed the whole lot.

Turns out no.

The moment when I realised this would be the Little Miss Sunshine Moment - the moment when her older brother realises he's colour-blind and speaks for the first time in months.

I'm now on a quest to find this notebook. I'm not missing very much of the novel - the equivalent of a chapter or two - and I know what notebook it's in, and I never throw out old notebooks so I know I have it somewhere. And I'm moving house soon, so the packing process will probably yield it.

Still. Very bloody annoying!

You'll be glad to hear that I channeled my desire to write more, though. I finished a short story (and managed to work Simon Cowell into it - I doubt he'll survive an edit but I was chuffed with myself and my irony) and I started transcribing something else I had handwritten (due to fabulous, atmospheric and evocative notebook), editing it as I went.


  1. Oh, Ellen! The missing bit in the notebook...

    Write down now what you remember of it?

    If nothing else it may be fun to compare when you finally open the handwritten notebook pages you're looking for.

    P.S. Congrats on the massive section of novel completion!

    I spent the holiday trip with notebooks, btw, in an in-law's house with howling windows. No joke. They windows laughed, screamed, screeched, and howled throughout the night, especially the one in the little guest bedroom.

    The wind was a huge wind, apparently. The house had received brand new siding sometime during the year and the metal trim around the windows enjoyed catching the wind and yelling about it.

    I got up and sat in a corner of the bedroom on the floor with a notebook in my lap. And I wondered were I not a writer what I would do instead. It was likely all pretense on my part, to sit with a notebook through the ceaseless noises. But, writing can be a comforting avocation.

    I thought if the house were on fire and burning to the ground I could go sit in the car with a pen and notebook. I'm not a journalist, so I wouldn't be writing about the house's burning. I would be working on the right phrase for my MC to use to refer to her part-time nanny (supper nanny?) or something like that.

    Sorry for the aside. It's just when you said "notebook", I thought: I've got one of those. And I guess we all do.

  2. It sounds very Bronte-like, writing in a house with howling windows.

    It is good to know we have notebooks to go back to, that we can still be writers in a post-oil and post-plastic world, should it come to that. I often write in notebooks too - as I said, sometimes because the notebook itself is very evocative (like this one: Sometimes I like the flexibility of notebooks - no worries about power sources, battery life, or spilling coffee on a laptop.

    I prefer the speed of typing over writing by hand, but writing by hand is a distinct and different experience and I'd hate to think it could be lost.

  3. Congrats on getting so much done on the current WIP! You rock. But super stinky about the notebook missing. I feel your pain!! I rarely write scenes in a notebook now. But I use a notebook for all my ideas and story building. I have at least two for each MS. I'd be lost without those books. Sending happy hunting thoughts to you.

    Taking a bit of a hiatus from writing till later this week. But feel good about where I am heading.

    And I LOVE Little Miss Sunshine. A classic movie.

  4. It is a classic, isn't it? So many quotable bits!

    I'm glad to know I'm not the only person who still uses notebooks. When I start a project, I sometimes do some free-writing where I start every sentence with 'I want to write about . . .' and I just have to do that by hand.


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