If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.
—Ernest Hemingway in Death in the Afternoon
Gabby has me diving into the freezing cold water of the North Atlantic, searching for the seven-eighths of my book that is underwater. Although just a meager portion of the seven-eighths, this is what I’ve uncovered:
- Subplot. I’ve fleshed out a murder subplot that wasn’t in the original NaNoWriMo novel. I wasn’t certain I even could use it when it appeared but I’ve grown to like it. I’ve been massaging it, expanding it, and I can see its potential as both a red herring and a means of inserting more of the backstory of some characters.
- Murderer. I’ve changed the murderer. This is big!! And it’s involved reworking not just the murder itself but also relationships among the characters. This change helped me flesh out the relationship between a mother and daughter, going back eighteen years to the daughter’s conception.
- Conflicts. You can never have too many of those, can you? Possibly in your real life but not in a book. My NaNoWriMo conflicts were superficial but now I’ve created some meaningful ones that will help Gabby develop into a well-rounded, mature woman.
- Family history. I’ve delved further into the history of the paternal side of the protagonist’s family, starting with the life of her great-grandfather. One of the perks of being an author is that you are in control of what happened generations ago that affects your living characters. It’s more fun, and easier, than using Ancestry.com.
- Whodunit? Most recently I have visited with each of my characters in order to discover who he or she thinks is the murderer. Through these conversations, I have learned more about my characters’ flaws, as well as gained some insight into where I need to place clues.
At this point, working with the separate parts of the structure of the novels means that I will have to fit all of this information together to form the novel. It is going to be like taking the pieces from numerous jigsaw puzzles and jamming the pieces together to create one much larger puzzle, all the while looking under the sofa and the coffee table for the missing pieces that make up the dreaded hollow places.
During all of this, I haven’t written one word that increases the word count of the novel. And that’s okay. For now.
In a show of solidarity with women in the United States and around the world who are observing International Women’s Day, I considered a boycott of my blog post for today.
However, as my writing is a hobby and nothing more–I don’t have to do it if I don’t want to– and not wanting to demean this cause, I am proceeding with my post. A radically different post than originally planned. (Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory can wait. Is there anyone who thinks Hemingway should be written about on International Women’s Day?)
Originally, I assumed– a gross mistake on my part–that this is a cause focused in the United States, where “A Day Without A Woman” is the rallying cry, urging women to strike by not working, whether paid or unpaid, or not shopping (except in small businesses or female-owned businesses). If you have to, or want to, work or shop, you can wear red to show your support.
A quick search on my phone left me in shock. And awe. And with the realization of how uninformed I am about women’s issues around the world even though I consider myself a feminist from way back. While we in the United States focus on the enormous contribution of women to the economy, women in other parts of the world are concentrating on more basic concerns.
Today’s “New York Times” mobile article International Women’s Day: Calls to Action, Words of Praise and Rallies describes how Iceland, Russia, Egypt, Georgia, South Korea, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Manila, Kenya, Ireland, Poland, Italy, Hong Kong, Turkey, among other countries, observed the day.
And then there is India. Where a hole in the ground constitutes a family’s toilet. Where three hundred million women defecate in the open. Where these very women are susceptible to sexual assault.
That’s when I started crying.
My economic contribution to this cause will be to donate money to an organization that helps women in India dig toilets for their families.
And my husband and I are wearing red today.