Only One Way to Finish a Novel…

Tonight, for the first time since the Fall 2019 anime season started, I spent an evening working on A Ghast in the Machine.

In the beats for the 17 chapters I’ve written so far, I had introduced the main characters from Terran Consolidated Products, TransStell, and the United Nations. There are two groups remaining, and I tackled one of them tonight.

I need to built out the European Union, specifically the contingent from Germany, led by Hans Alder. I’d already defined him, and tonight I filled out his staff with Helisent Ockert, his ministerial assistant; Stefan Linde, another assistant; and Jack Booth, his British public relations manager.

I also scouted a couple of locations, like some sites in Brussels, Belgium and another in Beijing, China. By “scouted” I mean looked up in Google Earth Pro. But it’s still amazing to me, having grown up with paper maps, how much detail I can get about practically any developed location on the face of this planet — at the cost of a few mouse clicks.

As proof that I made progress, may I offer this screen cap of the new UN characters and a new chapter? Yeah, it’s one chapter, but guess how far I’ll get if I don’t start with one?

This season, I’m throttling back to a single full review of an older series on Crow’s World of Anime. The rest will be Best in Show reviews, which means I pick a single favorite moment per episode. That should free up about 8 hours or so a week for novel writing — maybe more, since I only have to take notes on an episode if I’m writing a full review.

When I sat down tonight, all of the usual doubts were there. I told myself I had no idea where the plot was going. I had no idea what motivated the characters. I had no ideas how I was going to manifest my themes in a way that was natural to the plot.

Then I started writing.

I had no idea the British Empire wanted to use the discovery of interstellar fissures to reassert themselves. But that’s what motivates Jack Booth. I had no idea that Helisent Ockert hated Hans Alder passionately, yet supports him — for reasons she’ll make clear later.

I could go on, but the point is simply this.

Only by writing can I write.

Yeah, it’s stunningly obvious. But it’s as hard as it is obvious. It hard to trust that the imagination knows what it’s doing. Was Jack Booth always there, just waiting for me to catch up? Did my imagination create him at runtime, just as I needed something to happen with Hans Alder?

Does it matter?

Two and half hours after I sat down, the EU portion of A Ghast in the Machine was in place and is growing. Either my imagination was generating stuff on the fly, or I was tapping into some kind of subconscious engine that’s been incubating these characters and situations all this time. Either way, as I type — as I write — stuff happens. Isn’t that what counts?

China’s next…

Do you find it easy to write your beats? Do you even write beats, or do you do the pants thing (i.e, just make up the plot as you go)? Let me know in the comments!