Someone asked me what I learned from writing Hyperlink from Hell. That’s a topic for a whole lotta posts, so let’s get started.
First off, I learned that writing is not just a self-satisfying, self-actualizing pastime; it’s f&*king FUN.
There were times, writing Hyperlink, that I nearly burst with glee. I snickered, I snorted, I chortled. I made my husband doubt what sanity he thought I had left. I’m not embarrassed to admit it; I only hope some of that glee made it onto the page, and that reading it is half as fun as writing it was. Do other writers enjoy the process that much? I must be doing it wrong. Should there really be this much glee?
Yes. There should. Otherwise, why write at all? Fame and Fortune? (You can hear me chortling, can’t you?)
In fact, one of the reasons for all those silly footnotes is to share that gleeful feeling of accidental discovery, of “exponential serendipity”: that is, the happy accidents that occur during writing and even during revision. Accidents that “link” to deeper and deeper levels of meaning, and (hopefully) humor.
One such happy accident was the “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, all the way to the Big Easy” dream sequence. I wrote that scene based on a dream I’d had about house hunting in New Orleans — a place I’ve never visited. In my dream, it was a well-known fact that we’d have to be indoors by nightfall — since, of course, roving gangs of vampire dinosaurs owned the streets at night. Indoors was safe, because everyone knew vampires had to be invited in. Now for the happy accident: When I wrote that sequence, about Jimmie (in his dream role of Eddie Munster) house-hunting in New Orleans, I’d yet to read Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World, Science as a Candle in the Dark. So, when I made the realtor in the dream sequence suggest that the garage of the house would make a great home for Spot, the Munsters’ pet dragon, I hadn’t yet encountered Sagan’s “Dragon in the Garage” analogy to God. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of Richard Dawkins, whose “The God Delusion” would guide me to the works of Bertrand Russell.
Where had I been all my life? So it took a few extra years to finish writing Hyperlink, so what? I had to read Sagan and Russell and Dawkins… and discover the New Atheist movement… and realize I’ve always been a Freethinker, even though I didn’t know what to call it… and a few dozen other things, first.
Right about here I should dust off the old “life’s a journey, not a destination” cliche… so I will, because it’s true. And it’s just as true for writing a novel, at least for me. A novel is the sum of what happens to you because you’re writing it. And then, if you’re lucky, that novel “happens” to someone else on their life’s journey, and it leads them to someone else’s words and thoughts, and… and…
Can you hear music? Because this is all starting to sound like an afternoon on YouTube.
So… what have I learned?
I’ve learned that writing is FUN.
I’ve learned about Exponential Serendipity: the dawn of discovery, the thrill of the chase… Anthropology on roller skates, with a butterfly net… All the little wheels going off in different directions. I’ve learned that this is the only way I want to write.
I’ve learned that some writers work wonders with outlines and plot arcs and character genealogies, all set down before they write a word. I’ve learned that that process would suck the life out of me.
I’ve learned that if all your footnotes each have their own page, because you (ironically) want readers to NOT BE CONFUSED, Amazon counts those pages, and suddenly everyone thinks your novel is almost 100 pages longer than it really is.
I’ve also learned that I probably had TOO MUCH FUN writing Hyperlink, and that it could have been reined in a bit more in revision. I could have remembered what a high school English teacher once wrote in the margin of my paper: “Kindly control yourself.”
Can you hear me chortling?