Monday, February 01, 2010

Time Travel and Subconscious Errands

I have pretty much decided not to go to New York later this month, even though the hotel rates and airfares were tantalizingly low. Some research revealed that some of the things I hoped to see as part of my research don't actually exist in a useful form, and some of the things that might have been useful are currently closed for renovations. There might have been enough useful things to sort of justify a tax writeoff, but it would have been mostly a fun trip, and this isn't really the time of year for a fun trip because you can't count on the weather making being outdoors bearable and I can only handle so many museums. When I've been in New York around this time of year, it's always been for meetings or conferences, so most of the time, I'm indoors in a hotel conference facility, but manage to slip away for half a day for a little tourism, and then I'm also with a group for lunch and dinner excursions and maybe going out to a show or jazz club at night. It's just enough to get a taste of the city without spending the day wandering around. It wouldn't have been as much fun there by myself with whole days to kill.

Plus, I've tried to be a stickler about accuracy on my books up to this point because I'm trying to create the illusion that these magical things are going on now in our world and we just don't notice them, so I ground the "real world" part of the story in as much reality as possible, since I'm dealing with editors who live there. The book I'm planning is set in a different time period and it's even an alternative version of that time period, so while I need to do research to get the feel right, it doesn't have to be quite so accurate about what was actually there at that time period in the real world. I'm not going to run into any editors who can say, "Well, I time travel through alternate dimensions on my way to work, and you got it all wrong. That building is NOT there where you said it was." This is a book to research via the library, and it turns out that my library has most of what I need.

I kind of think the whole idea was one of those errands my subconscious sends my conscious brain on to get it out of the way so the subconscious can get something done. Because as soon as I finished my research and came to the conclusion that the trip to New York would not be beneficial and then went to work on the current book, I had a sudden realization of what's really going on with the bad guys, and it really strengthened their goals and motivations. Now I need to go back through the whole book and tweak it. It's not a major rewrite or even a Bill and Ted "remember to go back in time and put a trash can there" situation. It will involve changing bits of dialogue here and there or changing the way dialogue is spoken or a character's reaction.

This book is shaping up to have an entirely different creative process from anything else I've written. I can't even think of a good metaphor for it. What keeps happening is that one scene will give me some insight into what's happening that then alters the scenes that came before, and since it's all so subtle and building so gradually, I have to go back and fix it so it can build properly. I can't just make a note of what to fix in revisions and move forward as though it's been there all along. As a result, the book is slowly growing in layers.

Speaking of time traveling, Connie Willis's new book, Blackout comes out tomorrow. It's another one of her time travel books, and this one apparently spins off her short story "Fire Watch," with the historians in London for the Blitz. And it turns out that my library has it ordered. I already have my name on the list. I don't really like hardcovers, even aside from the price, so I'll greedily read it as soon as I can from the library, and then buy a paperback to keep when it becomes available. It looks like it's a two-parter, with the second part coming in the fall.

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