I’ve been reading your comments on the Lily opening, and I’ve realized that you’ve put a lot more thought into this story than I have, probably because I’m not going to write it. But it made me think about how I got to that scene, because the last thing I needed to do was start a new book. Of course, part of it was just a way to avoid cleaning the house and working on Nita, there’s always that. But after that, it pretty much went like this:
1. We were talking about planting things and I brought up Surprise Lilies, one of my faves. And I thought, “Surprise Lily. What a great title for a book.” And then I went somewhere else and did something else.
2. Much later, probably a day or so, I thought, “What would Surprise Lily be about?” And I thought about how Surprise Lilies just pop up unexpectedly, and I thought, “Maybe she just pops up every century or so.” And then I went somewhere else and did something else.
3. Much later, definitely two days or more, I thought,”Well if she goes back to three-digit years, she might know Pangur Ban.” And I checked, and Pangur Ban was Irish in the 800s (or so) and the worst problem they had were Vikings. So I thought, “Vikings, huh.” And then I went somewhere else and did something else.
4. Then Monday afternoon, something reminded me of my last therapist, who turned out to be a nightmare, and I thought about how Lily would be with her and there was Dr. Ferris and the first part of the scene wrote itself, and then I got to the boxes part and thought,”Now what?” and decided that Ferris would offload Lily onto someone she didn’t like, and there was Nadia, who is very loosely based on my current therapist who is wonderful. So I put up the blog post and then sent her a text linking to it, and she texted back “Great. Now I wanna read the book.” I wrote back, “It’s not gonna be a book. But you are Nadia’s sister.” And then I went somewhere else and did something else.
5. The next day, I started reading your comments and began to think about Ireland and whether Vikings smelled, and then I stopped because I’m not going to write this book. But later on I did try to figure out how Lily died twelve times, so there’s that, except I’m not happy with the list. If I was going to write this book, I’d fix it, but since I’m not, I’m going back to cutting Act Two of Nita.
Here’s the list, labeled by century, not exact date:
800: Viking invasion, falls off cliff.
900: Vikings again
1000: Vikings again
1100: Sigurd I of Norway becomes the first Norwegian king to embark on a crusade to the Holy Land, Lily is dating a Viking, tags along, dies by accident?
1200 Died at birth
1300 Black Death/Plague
1400 Died at birth
1500 Died at birth
1600 Mt. Vesuvius. (Vikings? Okay, maybe not Mr. Vesuvius.)
1700 Died at birth
1800 Potato Famine (Needs more Viking.)
1900 Titanic. (Viking Iceberg?)
I could do better than that because those deaths should be tied to things in Lily’s life now, but I’m not going to write this book. And now I must go somewhere else and do something else.
55 thoughts on “Pulling My Train of Thought”
Jenny – I was recently at the Viking Ship museum in Roskilde, Denmark and I remember learning that the Vikings were actually known for bathing once a week and combing their hair, which other people of their era did not do.
How did they bathe on those long voyages?
Cold salt water and harsh soap. Scandinavians walk naked through the snow to sit in saunas – a little seawater won’t kill them.
Not that you’re writing that book.
That museum is one of the coolest museums I’ve ever seen.
If you switched a couple of dates and a volcano, you could have her die in Sicily, in an eruption of Mount Etna; Sicily having been conquered by Normans (who were Vikings who settled in northern France).
Not that you’re going to write it.
I like the convolutedness of that.
Just keep not writing the book this way. *g* Really it writes itself.
I think what I like most about her deaths is that it implies that she wasn’t necessarily a rich noble during every single one of her lives. There were cool things happening everywhere throughout history, at all levels of society, and those folks deserve to have stories told about them.
Not that you’re going to write this book.
That was one of things I thought of from the beginning. She’s always one of the little people. The maid who goes down with the ship because her rich mistress wants to go to NYC. A farm worker. A flower seller. A cook’s assistant. A waitress. And none of the people she works for is Cleopatra or Rasputin.
But definitely not writing this book. (Go ahead and make fun. You’ll be sorry when I don’t write this book.)
This is less making fun and more me being familiar with the reality of being constantly visited by the ghosts of projects I don’t have the bandwidth to work on… like, maybe ever.
Particularly the one about the girl who fell in love with Death when she was mistakenly involved in…
… Oh damn, I just figured out another plot point and played myself. DAMMIT.
We’ve already been sorry for you not writing other books, too.
Yeah, I didn’t think that through.
Do your other WIPs still speak to you like this, Jenny? Or do you want to complete them just because of the work already invested? I’m curious if they are still present for you like this.
This reply is for Nicole, which may or may not nest under her question.
Do the other WiPs still speak to me? Yep. They just lurk in the underbrush.
Jenny, we’re always sorry when you don’t write the book!
I’m already sorry that you aren’t writing this book.
But we won’t stop hoping.
It’s like telling someone not to think about elephants: the more you tell us you’re not going to write it, the more likely it is to happen.
So, I’ve been in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, so I’ve met a few Vikings. But after spending time in Iceland, which was first settled by Vikings and not all that long ago, I would think of Vikings and Iceland and, oh, the Icelandic volcano with the endless name instead of Vesuvius. Because it’s much cooler. And Vikings. And hot springs and Viking shops and, oh, lots of sheep and wool and handwork (I helped round up and sort sheep there last fall — so cool!).
Also: Iceland has fairies. Think about how cool that would be!
That was supposed to be “Viking SHIPS” not “shops”.
(But there are lots of Viking shops in Reykjavik.)
Image of ocean-traveling merchants who keep their stocks in their boats and sell to other ships: Vikings keep their ship-shops ship-shape.
(If that comes out a nonsensically as I’m afraid it might, I can only plead industrial-grade fatigue and insist that it made sense in my head.)
There are several of your partial books that I’m sorry you haven’t finished. I have no moral high ground because I am going to take a nap instead of finishing painting a ceiling black. Sweet dreams
There was a big famine in Scandinavia in the 1860s (https://www.quora.com/What-was-the-worst-famine-in-the-history-of-Scandinavia?share=1). I had a quick look because of a vague memory of someone – Kate Winslett??? – on ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ discovering they had Swedish ancestors who’d really suffered in a famine.
Just to make the list tidier.
I was thinking there should be at least one “died in childbirth’ in Jenny’s list.
Too depressing. She not only died, which since she does that twelve times can be almost comic, but she’d lose her baby, too. Awful.
OTOH, I’m not writing that book, so it doesn’t matter.
I do think it would be interesting to see where that first scene ended up when that book would have been finished. My first scenes always change so much because you really can’t write a first scene until you know the whole book. But I have enough on my plate ,thanks.
At least one of the “died at birth” could be “died in early childhood.” Kids used to die, left and right, from things like allergies and asthma, which she could experience in her current incarnation.
Not that you’re writing this book.
There was an amazing Viking exhibition at the Melbourne museum a little while back. One of the odd things that stuck in my mind was they had scissors.
I’d really like someone around 1900 to track her down and murder her with a horned helmet, because she was party of the team that gave Viking helmets their horns. Of course, she would have had to be in London for today, not in Ireland dying from starvation.
Interesting sample view of “how do you get your ideas?”. Especially interesting that you showed how it developed bit by bit. Thank you for articulating all of this for us.
Oh, this is only the beginning.
Go back through four years of “I’m not writing the Nita book posts.”
Actually what I find most mind-boggling is the difference between the first scene when I first wrote it four years ago and where it is now. I mean I knew I rewrote a lot, but not that much.
Viking offers her Surströmming from his visit to Sweden and she decides she’d rather starve to death 🙂
(it’s almost 1am here, so this is probably a strange idea)
I’m glad you’re not writing this book.
Why? Because the last book you didn’t write was Nita 🙂
WHICH I’M STILL REWRITING.
Well, last night in my dream I was at your house and you were putting on a big party for all your neighbors. So clearly you’re nearly done rewriting and then we’ll celebrate. (I helped with all the clean-up. I need to get a better class of dream.)
Just think you could read Icelandic sagas as research. i would start with Egil’s saga. “ Egil (Egill)’s boyhood foreshadowed his future rebelliousness and poetic prowess. His unbridled behavior and strength beyond his age earned him a stay at home when a feast was held by Yngvar (Egil’s maternal grandfather). Egil defiantly rode a horse to attend, and composed his first skaldic verse at age three. At the age of seven while playing in the ball games (knattleikr), he committed his first murder (axe-killing an older boy who outclassed him in the sport).”
Too bad you aren’t writing the book.
If Egil’s what I have to work with, I’m grateful I’m not writing the book.
We can see why so many people around him die young, though.
In my incarnations until this life, i haven’t survived into adulthood let alone adolesence, mostly because I didn’t survive common illnesses like strep, fevers, tooth infections. I made it to adulthood this go round because of the invention of antibiotics. But i’m still plagued by others who have reincarnated along with me, taking on different relationships but who have cared, loved or failed me throughout. So my biggest challenge in this, my first successful incarnation, is my inability to deal with people in a mature, adult way because I have no memory to go by. My mother often said I was born crying mournfully so obviously, I didn’t have high hopes. But, thanks to Jonas Salk, I’m here and pretty much navigating relationships handicapped by a lack of emotional maturity to deal with conflict, due to my inability to survive in previous lives.
I enjoyed following your train of thought about the progression of ideas for this book you are not writing. And I chuckled out loud at the following comments. I love visiting this site!
I’m sitting at my local cafe giggling madly at the above – on a quiet, yay I don’t have to work Saturday – getting concerned looks from the cafe team, because I’m reminded of a “I’m not going to write this” series of posts a few years ago that evolved into Nita.
It was interesting to see how your ideas for the Surprise Lily not-book came about, thank you. 🙂
As a complete aside, you’ve said in the past that screenwriting is really not for you, but you’ve also said that dialogue for you is the ‘easy’ part of writing (if anything in writing is easy).
I’ve never read a script, but isn’t that mostly dialogue? So what’s the part that stops you (if that’s the term) from screenwriting?
It’s been a question I’ve had for a while and reading Surprise Lily reminded me of how good you are with dialogue – so this time I thought I’d ask 😀
It’s an excellent question.
Basically screenplay writing is a different language from novel writing which is a different language from graphic novel writing.
When you write a screenplay, you’re setting up a collaboration that you’ll then hand over to a director to interpret, and under her or his guidance to actors to interpret and a cinematographer to interpret and a soundtrack composer to interpret. I’m too much of a control freak to let that many people at my story. I’ll write the book and they can buy the rights and interpret their own story from it, but my book will still be on the shelf as my story, no matter what they do to it.
A closer analogy would be a radio play which is all dialogue and sound effects and for which there is no market.
The one visual language I’d like to try is a graphic novel, but I’d have to learn that language first. It’s taken me thirty years to learn to write novels and there’s no guarantee that I’ve mastered that yet, so I don’t see me learning a new story language any time soon.
Huh, very interesting, thanks.
Except now I’m trying to figure out how to make a radio play viable because I think it would be cool. Of course ‘viable’ probably doesn’t include being profitable 🙂
Wondery does scripted audio dramas as podcasts. Just saying.
(Also hello Argh people! It’s been a while.)
I think you’ve done a fine job mastering the art of writing a novel.
I have one pair of great-great-grandparents where HE was a Norwegian who left Norway in the 1840’s — family tradition says to escape the military draft, not that I found any independent proof of that — for London, Ontario, Canada, and SHE was an Irish potato famine emigrant who survived cholera on what they used to call the “cholera ships” when the ship’s captain and the ship’s doctor checked on her one day: the captain remarking that she was moribund and they’d better put her overboard, and the doctor saying, “not quite yet, captain.” She lived to 1905, when her granddaughter, my grandmother, graduated from university.
You’re welcome to use any of the details, not that you’re going to write the book.
I know of other Norwegian / Irish couplings. I believe there is a strong attraction amongst those two lands. They produce very pretty children. Like little Hummel characters.
In early medieval reports the Vikings thought the Anglo-Saxons didn’t wash often; the Anglo-Saxons, who made soap, thought the Welsh were unhygienic; and, several Welsh bishops were so put off by the Anglo-Saxons that they wanted their dishes scoured with sand and ashes after the Anglo-Saxons had sullied them.
This is a cool BBC3 program on 3 Alpha Anglo-Saxon women whose lives are shown through their burials. The healer is one you would also find in other cultures. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01nb0sw
In the 9th or 10th century Lily could work on manuscripts. She could be a trader in any era, just as she could tend flocks or make things to sell. In centuries prior to the 13th, she could be a warrior although the examples that come to mind are women in powerful positions. Of course, these are just jobs, not descriptions of characters.
Lots of ideas to play with. Probably the big thing to figure out is why Lily is being reincarnated. That is tough for me to imagine. I’d prefer to keep gods out of the equation. Why does Nadia also have memories of Vikings? Thank goodness this is your story and not mine, and you’re not going to write it anyway.
Nadia has memories of Vikings? I missed that part.
Yep, why she’s being reincarnated would be key. I have no idea. I don’t know why the cat keeps coming back, either.
That’s easy. The cat always comes back. It couldn’t stay away.
I love that this story has a cat!
The Vikings went everywhere, you know. According to Slavicchronicles.com, the original meaning of Viking wasn’t even a nationality. Some of the Scandinavian tribes were Germanic, some Slavic, some Finnic. Plus they came to North America at some point as well.
So there you go, this book you’re not writing could even be a sort of travelogue: Maybe Lily got killed in nearly every country in the Northern hemisphere, so she gets flashbacks wherever she travels, always a nice surprise. That would help her know where not to go, based on if she’s already died there, she’s safe. Maybe. Probably not entirely, and definitely not from love.
“Do the other WiPs still speak to me? Yep. They just lurk in the underbrush.”
Oh my god, the visuals.
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