I also feel--just like you predicted, shesnotallthere--a manic phase coming on. It's not pleasant, the way hypomanic creativity bursts used to be. I don't want to eat, I'm tired but I can't stay asleep, my scalp itches a little--sometimes I'm focused, and sometimes I'm so "focused" that I can't focus on anything at all, like looking through the glasses of someone who has a much higher prescription than you do. For weeks before this, I had headaches, weird muscle aches for no reason, and continual fatigue. I think some of that was allergies, since I now spend a lot of time 1) outdoors with Sam, so he can enjoy the fresh air with his seeing-eye human and 2) sneezing. Also, guilt, anxiety and secondhand stress, but those are a given. But basically, I have been dealing with a lot of low-grade, pointless bullshit health issues, and now I'm seeing a wave coming in to surf. I mean, I am sure I will continue to deal with pointless bullshit health issues, but we might at least get some variety in here.
Anyway. My book. The other day, I woke up from a nap and figured out how to change the last 2-3 chapters. I didn't dream it, per se; I just woke up, lay there for a moment, and started thinking about it. It's going to require moving up location research meant for the second book, but I can set that aside for the moment. Basically, I need information on the Exposition Universelle--i.e., the 1889 Paris World's Fair--and while I do have a book called, reasonably enough, World's Fairs, it might not be enough. I don't know--I'm always trying to remind myself that I can make stuff up. You do as much research as you can, around the subject if you can't get near enough to it (Devil in the White City, for example, is a wonderful book about the 1893 Chicago World's Fair), so it's not an excuse for laziness.
But it's why I decided to look into this steampunk business when I started writing this in 2003, back when the only result on Amazon was a steampunk GURPS manual. I don't even know what GURPS are. I WAS INTO STEAMPUNK WHEN STEAMPUNK WAS INDIE. YOU PROBABLY HADN'T HEARD OF IT. *hipster glasses* My point is, I was looking into this before a lot of the tropes had solidified as recognizable to the mainstream--the clockwork gears, the goggles, the airship pirates, the rampant cosplay. And, I mean, that's great for steampunk, that it has its own vocabulary now, and one that's recognized beyond the websites of the people who first loved it. It's ~A Thing~ now, and that's good for anyone trying to sell work in that genre. But the reason I was interested in it was a vaguer fantastical aspect--the opportunity to make stuff up, not a fixation on gears and goggles. It first occurred to me when I read the first volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, that I could be a little more free-wheeling about writing the Victorian era. And I keep having to remind myself that if I'm going to deviate from historical fact, I need to do it in broader, more fantastical strokes. Otherwise, it just looks like I got it wrong. And that realization ought to be freeing.
Of course, here in 2011, I'm worried that what I'm writing isn't steampunk enough, and that people who hear that word are going to expect certain tropes that the book won't deliver, because that's not what it's about.
And then I remind myself that genre labels are for marketing departments. You can put me in whatever section you think will sell the book, I'm cool with whatever. But there's a point at which it's not my job to think about that. It's my job to get on with telling the story I want to tell, and FINISHING THE DAMN THING.
(I spend a lot of time reminding myself of things.)
What I'm getting around to is that I've got to focus on finishing this, SOMEHOW, and the only way I can think to do that is either to post less--well, continue posting infrequently, if we're telling the truth. Or, to pop in every day or so and report what progress I've made. I don't really think of this as putting pressure on myself, because living up to the expectations of an audience is the least of my problems right now. I don't know--I kind of want you to be able to see that sometimes writing is hard, sometimes it feels like coal-mining, sometimes it's a fight. I mean, I love it. You're probably reading that sentence and going, "Jesus, if it's so awful for her, she needs to find something else to do because she is doing it wrong." I don't mean that kind of hard. I mean that sometimes you get blocked, you feel insecure and maybe even a little terrified, you can't figure out why something isn't working, you don't know what to do instead, you want to give up. You can love writing and get an incredible amount of joy from it, and it can still be hard, even then. You're never "doing it wrong." Not as long as you're striving to write better. Not as long as you're striving to write, period.
So all I can think to do is talk about the fact that writing can be hard, while I get myself productively indignant enough to fight my own insecurity. Because I'd rather get mad than pitiful. And maybe, once I've burned off that self-pitying fog, I can FINISH SOMETHING.
So! Today! I had spent yesterday wailing and rending garments because I couldn't find a really good scene I'd written a few weeks back, no matter which terms I searched on Windows Explorer. Today, I found out that it's really hard for Windows Explorer to locate a document that you wrote by hand and never typed up. Also, that it wasn't as good as I remembered. But it is found! And then I worked on chapter eleven, pulling together all my existing notes and drafts into a 19-page mess that I get to start whipping into shape. Possibly with actual whips. This chapter is called "The Scientific Method," and if you like the kind of thing where I natter about the history of vampire literature for half an entry, this is the kind of thing you will like. Because yes, it is about vampires (I know you're shocked). Then I'm going back to the first chapter and rewriting the opening with some of those broader fantasy strokes I mentioned, because my writing process is perennially unstuck in time. I can count to ten, as Francis Ford Coppola once said, but not in that order. Thus, I'm still wrestling with the first third of the novel, but I know exactly how the middle goes, and I have a reasonable idea of the last third, and the final paragraph is already written. I have a finely-honed one-sentence pitch, but I doubt I'll have to deploy it until after I have FINISHED THE THING.
So, my plan for the evening: typing up more of my handwritten drafts. Also: tacos. Mmm, tacos.