Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance.
It is a sad thing that before I begin this blog post that I must give some education. I know any of my contemporaries already know what that post title refers to, but here is the sad truth, compadres: we are old, and the younglings don’t know what the fuck a Sprocket dance is. Younglings, go here. Yes, it’s long. This is how long skits used to be back when flat screen meant a window. If the greatness of Chris Farley, Mike Meyers, and Phil Hartman is too much for you, skip to 7:20 and watch the Sprocket dance. You probably will still think I’m a nutcase, but at least you’ll get my reference.
Because this, bitches, is TOTALLY the time on Sprockets when I dance.
After sixteen novels, I am starting to figure out how I operate. Not my themes and plot patterns–that I clocked at eight. Penchant for mild angst, epic scenes, set of six revolving archetypes, regular habit of my guys boinking by chapter three–nothing new to see here. But I am, this year, figuring out a nasty little trick I have. I think I may have even developed this habit, but I know I’ve done a version of it all along. It is this, Virginia: sometimes I don’t like dark moment. Sometimes I have too many feelz and don’t want to write the hard things, and so as soon as I see them I start padding the walls and blocking up cracks so maybe they don’t happen. Then I wonder why I get stuck, because the damn thing is so boring. I go back, rerouting back into actual conflict…and subconsciously I undo it all over again.
For as much as I’m a panster, the part of me wanting everyone to just get along has pretty good distance vision and likes to step on stuff well in advance, necessitating a lot of clean up later. I think my muses have cottoned onto this. Having indulged in a pout Saturday about what I’d realized was coming, I’ve been since pushing forward to get there. Now that I am at the doorstep of the dark moment and the ride to the climax, I am looking around at an antagonist which has appeared pretty much out of thin air, or rather from this sign on the wall I’d slapped up, a cardboard cutout in crayon saying ANTAGNIST IZ HRE. What’s coming out of the wall is pretty real, but it’s weird, like Romper Room (there’s another ancient history reference, younglings) holding up the mirror and The Walking Dead starts playing.
Today I noticed this and metaphorically frowned at my muses. They rolled their eyes and said, “This is why we don’t tell you things until the last minute. You’ll have to go back and retrofit as usual.”
This is true. This is as usual. Have you read Special Delivery? Remember how Randy was this ghost antagonist all the way through until he appears in the last third? (This isn’t a spoiler, Samhain even included him in the blurb.) Well, in draft one his first mention was on the CB, when I wasn’t even sure that WAS Randy. Sit with that a second. Imagine him NOT this sword of Damocles hanging over Sam and Mitch the whole time. Love Lessons got to 60k twice before I put in the Williams plot. Again, imagine that book without that element. (God, it was fucking awful. That was this time last year, me swearing my head off.) Every single book in the Etsey series did that to me. (If you’ve read that, book one? Timothy at the end? I HAD NO IDEA FIRST DRAFT. Feel that fact, as Damon would say.) More recently, I sent draft one of Tough Love to betas with a half-assed conflict, totally fucking over my antagonist. Why? Because to this day thinking about the antagonist of that book makes me nervous, like maybe I didn’t do him right. Sasha will attest to my essays in the comment section begging her to please call me on the carpet if I’m not bringing it for Gordy. Writing is hard, and a lot of times? I try like hell to get out of it.
Eventually, though, I have to go back in and dance. In Fever Pitch RIGHT NOW I’m at the moment where the antagonist I should have been using all book (but have been shipping out of state and in general ignoring the hell out of) is going to bring the hammer. There’s even TWO PARTS to the antagonistic element in this book, and guess what: I’ve ignored both of them. La, la, la, I can’t hear you, busy writing a cappella dance numbers and boys in love. It’s not boring, it’s beautiful, it’s…
It’s boring. It’s so boring without the antagonist.
I’ve given up pretending I will ever understand that on the first go-round, that just because I want to write boring slog about everyone getting along (Extra credit: who knows what I’m referencing if I say “wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was nice?*”) there’s no promise it will be interesting to anyone, even me. Apparently that is what I do. I pretend I can be a special snowflake with no antagonist, and then at the eleventh hour I go retrofit one in. That is what I’m doing now. Sprocketing my way to an actual book, backwards from the 80k mark. Hurrah.
And no. It’s not any fun, it’s crazy hard to shoehorn it in sideways. It’s how I roll every time. Every. Fucking. Time. Sixteen novels, twenty published works, six partials in the hopper: still hard at sticking my head in the sand and being surprised when everyone else can still see my ass.
Time to dance, bitches. Time to dance. Then the tongue bath.**