Tuesday, February 12, 2008

But I Have No Cat to Vacuum!

Pre-sunset solarized, negative, granite, dark marker, and...?

Nearly five hours ago, I rebooted this computer, for the specific purpose of freeing up RAM so I could run Excel, update my word count spreadsheet for Heirs of Mâvarin, use the data from that to fix the pagination of all my Heirs chapter documents, (or vice versa), and proceed from there to updating my Heirs outline for the first time since January 5, 2006. The purpose of all this activity, aside from getting the manuscript one step closer to being sent out again, was to take a close look at the timing of one event in the book, so that a single paragraph in Chapter Eight will no longer strain credulity. That's right: all that for this one paragraph*:

That first afternoon of what the Princess called Crel’s Conspiracy, Fayubi set the window to look at Prince Carli, wherever he might be. Cathma was surprised to find him in bed somewhere, with Rani (she assumed), Shela, and Jamek all present around him. Carli seemed a little weak and teary-eyed, but then so did Jamek. From the way they were both behaving, Cathma knew she must be watching their long-delayed reunion. She ascribed her brother’s condition to the emotions of the moment, and stopped worrying about him.

It occurred to me yesterday that Cathma has to be pretty oblivious not to wonder why her twin is in bed in the afternoon. I either have to hope nobody notices this, or change the time of day that Jamek arrives at Carli's sickbed. It won't seem so strange for Carli to be in bed if the scene happens at 9 AM or 11 PM. But that creates another problem, because Jamek just arrived by flying horse, and I don't want readers to question how long it took the flying horses to get there. It's true the reader probably doesn't have a clear idea of the air speed of a fully laden flying horse with no coconuts, but it still needs to make sense in terms of the travel time for the characters they're following.

a tengrem.  Art by Sherlock.
How much faster is a flying horse than one of these guys?

hat requires me looking over how long it takes humans to travel that distance, how long it takes tengremen, and how much faster I've said the horses are than the tengremen. And all that has to be measured against how much time they lost giving the horses wings in the first place, and how much time they gained flying until midnight and taking off again at dawn, and when their enemies finished zooming down the road and started camping out to wait for their opportunity to attack. Sounds like work!

So anyway, I rebooted, because the computer has been threatening to freeze up even without an extra program open. Did I then jump right on the word count, or the outline? No, of course not. I messed around on Wikipedia for three hours. Then I started this post, gave it a title (which I'll explain in a moment), and decided it needed a picture of Tuffy. This past hour I've been fooling around with the two photos you see here, for no better reason than it seemed like more fun than writing this entry or paginating chapters.

Tuffy and Tuffy don't like vacuum cleaners.

Kinda cool, though, aren't they? There is, of course, only one Tuffy. The other shot I darkened a little and then threw a bunch of effects at it.

In writers' parlance, "cat vacuuming" refers to finding some extraneous task that doesn't really need to be done right now (if ever), and doing that instead of writing. A lot of writers are cat people for some reason, so I suppose the term makes perfect sense. I won't even insist that in my case it should be called dog-vacuuming. Ooh, Tuffy would freak, big time, if we ever came near her with that scary, noisy machine!

My question, though, is not whether Wikipedia and silly photo edits are cat vacuuming. Clearly they are. I'm wondering whether the updating of the outline and repaginating before this current editing run is finished are themselves cat-vacuumesque. Does it really matter that the outline is two years old, that it mentions a chapter title that I've long since changed, and that chapter breaks have been moved as well? What's the purpose of the outline at this point, when it's unlikely at this stage that any scenes will be added or moved around?

But I worry about Jamek arriving at 9 AM or 11 PM. I worry even more about him arriving when he does now. As much of a continuity junkie as I am about other people's books and tv shows, I want to get my own work right, have it all fit together and make sense. 99 readers out of a hundred may not notice, but there's always that hundredth one. And some of those one-in-a-hundred readers are editors.

Oh, by the way, that paragraph? It's on page 333 in Chapter Eight. I don't guarantee that it's actually the 333rd page of the whole book at this point, but clearly I'm making progress on my 13-chapter book edit.

Even if I do spend a lot of time finding ways to vacuum a virtual cat.


*I've since revised it.

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