Thursday, January 06, 2011

You know that puzzle...

The one in the shape of the triangle that has all the colored pegs.... You remove one to start the game. The object is for each peg to leap over another peg throughout the triangle until you’re only left with one peg.

My puzzle says one peg left means you’re a genius, two pegs you’re doing okay, anymore than four pegs left… and well… the word the puzzle uses is ignoramus. That hurts.

I have a team of three people I work with and all three have reached “genius” level on this puzzle. I did once but because no one was there to see it they disbelieve my claim. This of course speaks to their genius because I would lie rather than be outdone by them - but in this case I actually told the truth.

So I did what any good boss would do when one is confronted with a challenge from one’s team and decided that I would find the pattern that I’m sure exists within the puzzle so I could repeatedly always get down to one peg no matter how many times I did it. I attempted this at the expense of countless of work hours. But really… I mean priorities people. For those of us who remember the 80s – it’s like when you finally figured out the Rubix Cube. Once you knew what you were doing you could always do it. Will Smith can do it in seconds!

While I was cursing at the block of wood and pretty plastic pegs and struggling to remember what I had done before I thought… shouldn’t I be good at this? I mean really it’s all about seeing the board a few steps ahead. You can’t just make a leap. You have to look two, maybe three leaps ahead to see where the puzzle will take you.

You have to plot. I write books. I plot. I absolutely need to see where things are going when I write. I should be able to repeatedly solve a simple board game with only one freakin’ peg left every time!

Then it occurred to me. I don’t really see that far ahead in my books. I’m definitely a plotter and not a pantser – in that I don’t just sit down and write and see where it takes me. I can’t start a book until I see that key beginning – middle- end structure.

I remember now that I don’t really “create” the beginning middle and end. I don’t make it happen like a person solves a puzzle. Mostly I just think about stuff and suddenly other stuff comes to me.

I’m about to start my next book. I know the premise, I know the heroine. I have this idea of the hero. I know the time, place and setting. I know there is a mystery, but I don’t know what happens after Chapter 1. But there is no getting to Chapter 2 for me and because there isn't I'm in this weird holding pattern.

There is no pattern in my mind that makes me see beginning, middle end. Beginning middle end for me - falls from they sky. I get lucky. I write a book.

So what I have to hope for now is that my team doesn’t continue to do this puzzle and really show me up. Because the only way I’m going to get down to one peg is if suddenly it comes to me and I get lucky.

Therefore I’ve done what any logical person would do and I have hidden all the pegs.

I’m no ignoramus.


Karen Whiddon said...

I'm at the same place - just starting my next book. I think maybe that might be part of the reason I do so many rewrites of chapter one - until I get it right, it's difficult to move to chapter two.

Re that %$#*& puzzle? Never have figured it out. I'd hide the pegs too.

Maureen McGowan said...

Ha! I think hiding the pegs was the genius (and mature) thing to do. Totally.

Our "processes" sound so similar, Stephanie. I think to move forward I need to have a theory about how to solve the puzzle, the illusion of path forward, but how I solve it almost always is different from what I thought the path was. But when it seems like a muddle before me? I can't move forward.

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, and I, too, have gotten lucky with that peg puzzle, but have not figured out the pattern. I gave up on Mr. Rubix very quickly. Spacial skills are not my forte.

(I did however, one rainy summer day at a cottage when I was twelve, figure out how to arrange a deck of cards so that when I dealt them out, I'd win at solitaire.)

Eileen said...

It is SO like a puzzle. All these little pieces that have to be accounted for and put in sequential order.

Sadly nothing drops from the sky for me. Nothing. It's all diagrams and outlines and notes and ripping things apart and putting them back together until they fit right.

Molly O'Keefe said...

In my small home town before we could go to the bars and hang out - we'd meet out at this truck stop and drink GALLONS of coffee - because we were cool like that. But they had that game there - I could never ever figure it out. Ever. And while I often think of brainstorming and editing as puzzle problems I NEVER think of writing as a puzzle. No matter how much I plan - and I plan a lot it always feels like I'm falling face first into the mist. I think it's the prospect of the blank page. You just don't ever know how you're going to fill it.

Molly O'Keefe said...

oh and of course you've got to hide the pegs...of course.

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