At first glance, the fig tree in the courtyard outside my apartment looks like a round mound of large green leaves and tiny green fruits. Today, I studied it longer, though, and began to see golden-brown fruit hidden in the green. The longer my mind was attuned to shape and color of a ripe fig, the more of them I discovered. Circling the tree slowly, I reached in and harvested the fruit, choosing only the figs that were perfectly ready. My four neighbors in our building had come out into the courtyard, and I enjoyed the sight of my cupped hands offering the bounty and my neighbors’ hands one by one taking their share. Chatting sociably, we ate sun-warmed, rain-watered figs.
Later, as I began my yoga practice, I chose the theme of doing it differently. Normally, I practice without music, so I selected a CD from the bottom of the stack, strange contemplative music with drones and drums that I hadn’t listened to since I moved over a year ago. I started with a pranayama technique I seldom practice, changed the sequencing of familiar poses, and replaced others with asanas I’d neglected for a while. The idea was to change the flow of my energy and open myself to new possibilities.
I did it as preparation for writing, getting ready to tackle the middle . According to my word count, I’ve completed fifty percent of book seven in my series. The chapter in progress will be a major pivot point, with revelations about the crime and about a ghost. It should set up future challenges for Mae Martin, adding to the necessity of a trip to a place she’d rather not go—her old home town. The problem is, it feels like the beginning of Act Two, and it should be the middle of it.
I’m not cutting until I finish the first draft, though. As a pantser, I don’t yet know which of the subplots in the first half will turn out to be integral to the story and which can be removed. Several of them surprised me, but then, my ongoing characters have lives of their own. I’ve never suffered for lack of material. This is where my notes on possible directions and loose ends come in. I get floods of ideas and record them in case I forget, but as the book progresses, some of those ideas may not fit. Some of the loose ends will turn out to be dead ends I can cut. At this point, I look at that list and see a lot of major events yet to come, a lot of little green figs, but that may not mean the book is going to be too long. The pace should be picking up. I might really be half-way through. When this draft is done and I can step back and study it after a break, I’ll be able to see the subplots that contribute to the whole, like ripe figs hidden in the leaves.
I may have to rearrange events, the way I did my yoga practice. Perhaps that pivot point in the middle would make a good beginning or a good chapter three. Maybe it’ll be the beginning of Act Three. Revisions like that would be hard but satisfying. In fact, if it’s difficult, it may be more fun than if it was easy.
And I have an end goal. Not just a story, but readers. I won’t see them the way I saw my neighbor’s hands taking figs from mine, but creating a new book leads to the same joy: sharing.