So, I don't necessarily have a quote for you off the top of my head but this did bring to mind a film my family saw (and very much enjoyed). In English, it's titled 'The French Minister'. Your challenge reminds me of a certain scene, although I'm not going to spoil it by giving details.
Let me begin by saying that I love these things, for so many reasons. If someone asks what your favorite animal is and you answer “solenodon”, it sounds like a dinosaur. I forget exactly what school project it was that introduced me to the obstinately extant mammal. What I won’t forget is the first time I saw a picture of one, in an article about how difficult it is for scientists to accurately assess the solenodon population (short version, they are endangered, live on Cuba and the island of Hispaniola, and incredibly shy). Perhaps my favorite cosmic punchline is that the curmugeonly rodents were once the apex predators of their ecosystem. Looking like a large rat with the snout of a shrew, they certainly don’t look like an apex predator. But the name solenodon means slotted tooth - solenodons are one of the few venomous members of the shrew family. Their snouts feature a ball-and-socket joint (like a human shoulder) to give it extra flexibility and help the solenodon better suss out prey (they're mainly insectivores). If you want some more facts on this ridiculous little animal, a few good places to start are:
And, if you were wondering if there are any more bizarrely fanged creatures out there, look up "Chinese water deer" - they grow tusks instead of antlers.
Disclaimer: I'm on my sixth manuscript, and yet to get a coherent/complete first draft of any of them. (Although come to think of it I have a great idea for another one written down somewhere that I was going to use for NaNoWriMo this year, until life intervened). The point here being, I can tell you what has helped me but I am not one of the auspicious / organized ones. I just tend to sit down and try my best.
Formalities out of the way, probably the best piece of advice I've gotten on actually finishing is to write the thing chapter by chapter. End each chapter with a cliffhanger and you'll automatically have somewhere to start next time. Second disclaimer, if you do it this way, when you give it to a friend to read don't do it a chapter at a time. It just makes them frustrated that you don't write faster. I found this method really helpful as a minimal planner (I'll start with a sentence or two like the kind from the blurb on the inside of the dust jacket, and just go with whatever comes to mind). It enabled me to finally get a coherent chronologically ordered story, and feel like I was making progress. I have since taken up another project that I've been at for around two years now, without the structure the story is all over the place. The big difference between the two projects is "step size": the current story has been going for longer, I have character arcs and a timeline and everything, but that doesn't stop new characters from showing up most of the way through without bothering to introduce themselves; there is a plan but no cohesive chunk of text longer than a scene or two. The earlier story is shorter and has been dormant for a while, but is very easy to keep track of with the chapter-by-chapter progeression. I have no idea for what's going to happen next, and make things up as I go along (in the hallowed tradition). But the chapter-by-chapter story always has a clear place to go, while the disorganized one is like trying to find the end in a Gordian knot.
Without the facile direction to progress in, it can be incredibly difficult to feel like I'm making progress at all, because while the word count increases it doesn't necessarily get closer to being a story, if that makes sense. So I would recommend:
If you're a planner:
- Get your story arcs / plan all worked out
- Decide on a general chapter length (I tend towards 5,000 words but I'm long-winded; 1,600 is good for some people)
- I prefer sitting down and writing most of a chapter at once, although if you do more with scaffolding, intermediate drafts, or organization your timetable will depend on that. Figure out your preferred organizational style, and try to find a writing schedule that works for you
If you're not a planner:
- Have a general idea for the story
- Start with the first chapter. I tend to prefer starting with slightly absurd situations as a way to introduce my character and because I write to have fun
- Every chapter should feature a choice/decision, and the results of that decision should lead to the development of a slightly new situation
- This way, every chapter builds on the last, and you can change the story's direction whenever you want
Then, once you've got a first draft, revising. Quite frankly, I have no idea how to go about this one. Even for academic papers I tend to be a one-and-done draft writer, and if multiple drafts with "significant changes" are required I sometimes take out the best parts and use the mutilated essay as a first draft.
So, to summarize, the best technique I've been recommended is to take it chapter by chapter. Chronology and context are somewhat automatically included, because you'll be building off what you just wrote. Don't ignore your other ideas: write them down somewhere else fully enough that you'll be able to use them later. That way you can decide to either flesh out the new ideas more fully, or to continue with your current project. I tend to keep comp books so for new ideas, taking a marker or highlighter and color-coding the edge of the pages for new ideas can be really helpful. Other than that, I put the working title at the top of the page when I write part of a story. I should probably have separate sections for different stories or something, but I don't. I just flip around a lot, and look for labels. The other thing I enjoy about the comp book system is that typing it into my steadily growing word processor document gives me a chance to kind of edit as I'm transcribing, and comp books are much easier to carry around than a computer. The downside is that if you have multiple comp books without clear delineations between story ideas, you might end up doing a lot of flipping and end up with multiple comp books. If my own experience is anything to go by, organization is incredibly subjective. Working from front to back, my comp books are a series of bits and pieces of stories I'm working on, sometimes picking up from the previous page, or where I am in the word processor document of the story, or an entirely new scene I just realized could be incredible. Working from back to front is more organizational, so currently to-do lists, grocery lists, more planning stuff. The two sections tend to meet closer to the back cover than the front, but beyond a general "creative writing in front, executive function from back" scheme there is no real organization. I've tried using sticky note flags and paperclips and dedicating a single book to a single project. For me everything runs together so it's easier to just flip around and have everything in the same place. Some people are highly organized and have an entire system that works for them; if you're one of these people I admire your innate talent for executive functioning. If you're not, don't worry: there are plenty of unorganized or somewhat organized folks out there. Pick a system, try it, and keep trying and modifying until you find something that works for you. There's such a wide variety of people, it;s no surprise that something different works for everyone.
One last note, I think it;s a little unfair to expect yourself to focus solely on writing your novel until you finish it. Everyone needs a break, to focus on different things from time to time. Taking the time to do some writing exercises, or planning, or writing an unrelated short story, are equally valuable. The human mind is hardwired to wander to some extent. So what if you take a break from your novel to capture that awesome short story idea you just had? It's not like that day will be the difference between your novel being a couple pages versus a couple hundred. So while I think the dedication and perseverance in writing a novel are important, I think it's also important allow yourself to enjoy other smaller projects in the meantime.
Wow, that ended up being a lot longer than I intended. Hope you find some of it helpful!
Today was clear, crisp as the leaves that skirl in the street, caught in invisible eddies. The sunset did not deign to stay for long without clouds overhead to catch its glow and rim the horizon in fire. Instead comes the bluing, the sky glowing behind bare branches. Twilight comes, comfortable in the autumn air, regent of the time between. After the sun but before the moon, the entire sky seems as glass before a candle, a surreal blue. During the bluing anything is possible, as the world plays by the in-between rules and prepares to greet night, and the sky shines richly overhead.
Cats and Dogs
I am a cat person. Dog people bother me, with their overabundant enthusiasm, the urgent need to constantly be socializing. There are a few I can generally bear... but overall entirely too tiring to be worth the effort. I prefer cat people, those independent enough to function without constantly seeking your command or approval, who recognize your space without invading. Cat people might be thought of as aloof, although I think a better term would be reserved. Saved for people they like, those they know are worth the effort and bring out the kitten in them. People they can be playful with, who acknowledge the need for solitude sometimes. Dog people, so driven by interaction, don't always understand why we pull away or find some people overwhelming.
Or were you talking about people who want to own a cat versus people who want to own a dog? Being allergic to cats, I lean sharply towards the canine end of the spectrum. Being less allergic to dogs, though, I make a case for the reptiles. The lizards whose bright-eyed exploration of their terrarium and ferocious moth-hunts bring so much joy. The corn snakes who love sitting on your shoulders, content to just be company. The turtles who always look slightly confused, but willing to go along with it.
Struggle as I might I cannot
escape the invisible threads
pulling me ever inwards.
I do not understand them,
not fully, and I doubt I ever will.
Many better than me have tried,
dedicated their lives to the why
and yet we have made tiny steps
with the mountain still ahead.
We strain against that pull,
dream of halcyon days when
somehow, it might no longer hold us
holding as idols those valiant few
who have mastered its siren song
forgetting what we would be without.
In our lofty ambitions we forget
to be thankful for its restriction
chafing against the very ties
which serve to hold us safe.
We fight the inexorable
like calling to like, calling out
falling towards each other
no matter how hard we fight it
as inevitable as time
an attraction we cannot master.
I'd like to take a moment
to laud such quotidien tyrant
who holds us each in thrall -
although at times an inconvenience
I appreciate stars at a distance
blue skies far overhead
for if not a slave to gravity
I wouldn't be on Earth.
It was a small local theater, velvet on the seats worn from generations of patrons. Our seats commanded a view of the stage and, of equal importance to musicians, the pit. I remember watching The Pirates of Penzance, admiring the obvious care that had gone into the set and how much fun the actors were having. More than that, the smell of cypress that formed the backs of the seats. Woody, peppery, warm from so many happy people, if sunshine had so thoroughly soaked into the place that its aroma drifted up even under eletric candlelight. We have since gone our separate ways, but in that space that had been cherished for so long, magic happened when the curtain raised. Buildings like that, time moves differently. For a night it seemed to stop entirely, as enthralled by the show as the audience. Then the curtain fell and the lights came on, and there was only the lingering smell of cypress.
Did you know... reindeer float? Their coats are composed of two layers, one of which is hollow hairs which serve two purposes: insulation and buoyancy. The insulation comes in handy because reindeer habitat is in the far north where it's cold much or all of the year. When they migrate, some stretches of their migration path require swimming distances of several thousand miles.