I was sitting in a box seat watching the ballet Cinderella at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House when inspiration struck. Nothing surprising about this, as inspiration tends to strike me at the most inopportune moments (see my first Blog post, The Imps.) This inspiration was a long time coming, and I felt a sort of desperate dismay that I had no pen or pencil handy to write down what was suddenly so clearly wrong with my poor, meandering fantasy story called The Gantean. I feared I would get swept back into Prokofiev’s dark, haunting music and the breathtaking choreography of Christopher Wheeldon and lose all track of my new ideas.
Fortunately for me, I have lots of practice at frantic feats of memory, and I managed to hold onto my breakthroughs, despite the seductive lure of the show and the irritating people drinking champagne and rudely conversing in the neighboring boxes. No sooner had my friends and I exited the opera house than I had launched into one of those horrible writer monologues that I try very hard to avoid, the type where I completely dominate the conversation while discussing the plot of my book to glazed eyes. My forbearing friends, Christine and Beth, very kindly did not roll their eyes, and even offered additional suggestions to further the breakthrough. By the time we reached the parking garage, fully a third of the book had been axed for a far simpler, tighter plot with more tension.
Beth handed me a stack of withered paper from directions to past acting auditions, and Christine produced a pen. I spent the drive back to Marin scribbling the new ideas into lists. You can’t imagine how precious those papers became in the space of a thirty-minute drive.
Perhaps because it was the magic midnight hour when I finally arrived home—after an adventure in my 1966 Mini Cooper whose headlights died halfway there, just to add some drama to the evening—I could not sleep. Snippets of dialogue kept popping into my head every time I started to drop off. I finally gave up and went down to my office with a stack of scratch paper and just wrote and wrote. By the other witching hour—three in the morning—I had a full outline of the rewrites I needed to do, and a plan to completely cut and redo—count ‘em—nine chapters of The Gantean.
This past week I’ve been working through the outline and making my changes, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Many of you know that The Gantean has been a labor of loathing for the past five years. A book I began when I was twelve, The Gantean has see so many drafts I lost count somewhere around 123. I really am shocked I didn’t trash it years ago. It still exists only because I’ve written—erg—six other books set in the same world, and I really need this intro book to get the series rolling. So my mid-performance inspiration was a gift from the Imps that I could not afford to miss.
Figures they would send it in the middle of a ballet.