Can dropping down a rabbit hole be a necessary pursuit? Or does it always imply time-wasting?
Whatever the case, two deep rabbit holes yawn constantly at the writer’s feet. They are: research and editing.
My story begins in 1738. I had no idea how little I knew until I stumbled along, inserting obvious anachronisms like electric ceiling fans and ice cubes. Yes! But even once you get a certain fluency for your period, quick dips into research are needed — often to remind me of things I learned and then forgot.
How many rebels died the morning after the Stono Rebellion? How many were executed the following week? And the number rumored to have evaded capture, again – remind me?
How is Beaufort rice bread prepared?
What were the prevailing views on homosexuality in the low country in the 18th century? Surely not the same as in the Puritan northeast?
Editing is also necessary and can go on and on and then on some more. Few and far between are those golden passages that come out intact. Most require a lot of work — in fact, an astonishing amount of work — things like making a flashback stand on its own in real time, fixing inconsistent tenses, eliminating peripheral characters, and always — paring away words that clutter the page.
There’s always the danger that editing will keep the writer from the business of original writing. They use such different parts of the brain and one is so much easier to access than the other!
Editing also poses the danger of wiping out distinctive cadences and phrasing. That’s part of why when I back up my manuscript, I don’t write over the previous version (not that I go back and read them, but — I could).
Useful distractions include working in other media (and reading. Always reading!) Most creatives will tell you that switching media feeds the work.
This morning, I played with magazine scraps brought from home. Whether it was a useful distraction or not, I’m not in a position to judge. Here are the results.
The first one speaks directly to a storm scene I’m editing in which the slaveholder loses both an entire crop of rice and a key slave in a boat accident. The scene exposes dissonant responses to the loss (white vs. black). The white response wonders which is the greater loss — the twenty barrels of rice or the valuable slave? — highlighting in a sharp way the slaves’ status as property.
(In the era my novel describes, the enslaved wore ragged tunics and head rags. The portrayal of the two African Americans above, therefore, is to my mind, romanticized).
Today is Good Friday. The Christ figure removed from his cross last night will be processed from the top of the hill down to the Basilica of St Francis. People mobbed the statue last evening once it was in repose in order to touch it.
This morning when I attended Mass at San Rufino at the crack of dawn, the 500 year old wooden body was adorned with flowers.
My digs are a little cold, so midmorning I found a patch of sun near St Clare’s Cathedral and stitched for a while.
The beauty of this place fills me up!
PS. That moon picture was taken out of my window between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m.