Sigh… here I am again. Third year, third NaNoWriMo. This time, I just might finish it.
As I look back at the previous two NaNos I’m struck by how, firstly, NaNo 2001 was such a roller coaster. The message-boards (back then as a sequential Yahoo! Club), the initial burst of speed, the final three day rush to 35K… actually coming up with a plot and character set that I like even after all this time.
But I knew (i.e. I had a nagging feeling in my gut) back then that Tale of a Thousand Savants was not ready to be finished, and hence I stopped at the end of the first third, just before the Eule section. This has turned out to be true, even if it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Parts of Savant’s world have been revealed to me now that were unknown before 2001. Indeed, the full scope of what I was trying to attempt in Tale only hit me when NaNo 2k2 started up and I began writing Undecided at the Moment.
I don’t know quite how, but I had in both NaNos ended up choosing to write two very important parts of the Savant canon. Pre NaNo 2002 The major parts of the Savant time-line were, of course, First Days and The Cleaving of Xaria, with some nebulous thought about what happened far, far, far later in a project (since scrapped) that was nick-named Cleaving 2. Tale was just a pulpy, action-packed affair that would introduce a few characters, kill them off and keep the world pretty-much the same. Stuff would be destroyed, but it would be rebuilt, good as new.
I didn’t count on Park coming up.
Of all the characters I have written about in the Savant mythology, there are only two I would love to — no, am dying to — meet.
Savant and Xaria?
Pre NaNo 2001, yes, that would have been my answer. But the second Park showed up in a chapter entitled Dinner by Bug-Light, entirely unexpectedly, just as someone to fill the chairs, name, shape and X-Ray glasses decided in 2 whole seconds — she had me.
Let you in on a secret: Park was going to die, originally. At the end of the Eule segment she was going to die very well, blood spattering on Savant’s coat, blood dripping off Savant’s friction-free coat just as easily. Like Oded Fehr in Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy, Park was snatched from literary death to live life anew, and perhaps a sequel. I’m happy for that.
It was during December that I thought long and hard about just what Park would do in a post-Eule setup; would I just not kill her and keep her in the background, perhaps in a coma? By mid-January I had restructured the plot in ways that not just made sense, but felt right. This was Tale as it was meant to be, this was the plot waiting to find itself.
But not quite. For that I would have to wait another year.
It came soon; before I knew it, November 2002 was upon me, my mother was dead, I was waiting for my graphic design diploma, and writing seemed the farthest thing from my mind. Still, what the hell, I might as well try, right?
I signed up for the newly refurbished NaNo website and fiddled with my author profile. When I came to the field marked Working Title of Novel I immediately put in “Undecided at the moment”.
The words stared back at me. Undecided at the moment…
Undecided at the Moment!
I had my new novel.
There were parts of Savant I hadn’t touched upon. Parts that I had, quite literally, stayed the hell clear of. Undecided was my first dive into those mercurial waters, and though I never got farther than 3,000 words, I’m glad I went there.
If Tale was (initially) a pulpy action explosion, Undecided was a meditation; a tale of death, of sorrow, of an old man would couldn’t die trying to decide his role in the grand drama. It was exactly the mood I was in after my mother died three months before.
It was a tale of renewal.
As the plot of Undecided swirled through my mind on November 1st, 2002, I learned, finally, after eight long years him being with me, what happened to Savant at 400. More importantly, I understood why.
And understanding that, like Park a year before it, completely threw me.
I stopped writing — I had to. Here were all these new things I was being told, these new experiences, this ecstacy of the years 400 that I had never looked at. Never seen from Savant’s perspective. Never, even when I had seen everything else from his eyes.
At a certain level, I felt betrayed. Why had this been kept from me? Why now, when I needed to write Savant the most. In Sanskrit there is a proverb and loosely translated, it says: “When the pupil is ready the teacher will present himself.” It had taken eight years for this teacher to present himself.
By mid-November, 2002, I had begun the rather painful task of reorganising the story entirely from Savant’s perspective. In doing so the end of Tale presented itself. I had the whole plot some months before, but the one crucial aspect that was — both in the novel and to Savant himself — amiss had been formed. The cycle that started at the beginning of The Cleaving of Xaria had resolved itself, 3225 years later in Savant’s life. The events of 400 to 500 were that much more important now; the battle-lines drawn during First Days finally made sense; the passion in Cleaving was finally real. Savant was finally Savant.
What happens in the novel after Tale, I don’t know. I’m not meant to know yet.
Same goes for this year’s NaNovel. I don’t think it’ll be a Savant novel; it doesn’t feel like one. I had a few plots floating around for the past few weeks, but it doesn’t feel like one of those either.
The teacher will present himself.