With the first draft of a novel
put away to rest---or cure, or proof, or ripen-- for the next two or
three months, I have been thinking about the way each book seems to bring to me
an inner crisis.
Some books actually begin with the crisis: the thing I’m
feeling a deep need to work out; a yearning and restlessness beyond any
understanding or resolution except via the irrational magic of making it into a
At other times the crisis gathers force only when I am well
into the writing, and suddenly the narrative takes over most of my energy and
focus, until the story is shaped, completed.
This can be exhausting, physically and mentally.
Each book has had its own arc of crisis and resolution, and
with experience I have come to learn—to feel inside—the moment of passage.
That’s when I know the first draft—what I call the story draft—is ready, along
with its writer, to rest for a while.
As one who is fond of sky and water metaphors, I can
describe it like this: The story that
forms and becomes visible is shaped by things unseen, just as the waves on the
surface of a lake or sea take their shape and form and motion from the vectors
of the wind and tides, from the shapes and proportions of whatever lies hidden
Island- Mixed media collage and scan by Kevin Macneil Brown, April 2017.
My focus this winter had been on writing, with mornings spent on a first draft of the sixth Liam Dutra New England mystery novel.
I have nonetheless managed to find some time to paint, usually in the afternoons. These painting sessions have often become a sort of meditation on what is right here all around me-- a welcome respite from the immersed- in- another- world feeling that comes with writing fiction.
Here are a couple of recent watercolors.
Afternoon, Late January
Whiterock and Mount Hunger in Morning Light, January
Paintings by Kevin Macneil Brown, watercolor and graphite, 2017.
First Light, First Day of the Year
Painting by Kevin Macneil Brown, watercolor on paper, 2017
It happens each year, of course, but I am always surprised at how noticeable the lengthening of the days and the strength of sunlight become, just a couple of weeks past the winter solstice.
Another kind of light has found me in recent days also. In December I was struggling to see my way further into the novel in progress. My production slowed way down-- despite a good start, I was feeling stuck.
Just yesterday, however, something shifted. Here's what I wrote in my journal:
....logjam seems to breaking up...I think I need to just keep writing, letting the story come to me and take shape around the energy points that I do have in place already. It's a bit like a submerged mountain range: the high peaks are clear and visible, as is some of the ridge line. But there's a lot of mountain still beneath the water, waiting to be found. I've never had a story come to me this way before...