Furlough 38: The Crime and The Code


Writing a novel uses two parts of yourself–the child and the puzzle maker (I wrote about it here). They work together to keep the novel fresh and imaginative but also structured and logical. However, just after the rough draft has been reread but just before the big questions are asked, there is a middle place, a purgatory between the two. There is where I am now.

Here is where I play and doodle. Here is where I paraphrase–a lot. I don’t take anything too seriously but neither do I take anything too casually. I run most on instinct. Any idea that pops into my head, I write it down to either dismiss or keep later. Everything is later.

No judgments. The essence of play is absolutely without judgment.

Earphones blast either emotion chill or foot-tapping jazz, depending on my mood. The point of this is not to pick anything yet but to see what draws me in. A few times (it’s only ever a few) throughout my rereading the rough draft, I singled out scenes or lines of dialogue or paragraphs of style that spoke to me. THIS was what I wanted it to be. It is at this time that I will revisit them and see if they hold up. Instinct here is essential. Whenever I think too much (especially about publishing or the other creativity-destroying things outside of myself), I take a breath, pull my focus back, and remind myself that this is only play.

This is the realm of What If…

A writer is both killer and investigator. The killer, in a fit of unconscious inspiration, drawn from his or her own personality, fears, habits, hopes, dreams, and memories, produces a “body”. It is then the investigator’s job to examine the corpse and the crime scenes for clues of who the killer was and why they killed. To quote John E. Douglas, one of the first modern investigators to employ criminal profiling, “Why + How + = Who.”

But this is after. Right now, I am the pathologist, slipping on his rubber gloves and mask, poking the Play button on his stereo, and beginning my autopsy. I observe and record. I examine and take notes. It is not my job to solve the case, though I may have my own theories. I am just listening to music and taking notes, sometimes a little bit restless and bored, sometimes intrigued and fascinated.

It’s a delicious rascality, working with your words like this.

Create and Complete, fellow writers!

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