The GPS didn't do much for me. I imagine it's very helpful to people who are on the road a lot in strange places, and to be honest my nephew never got lost once while he was up here. But what it really reminded me of that nerve-wracking time during my teen driving years with my dad riding shotgun in the car and barking out directions at me (Tom is somewhere in L.A. laughing right now because I taught him to drive and did the same thing to him during his rookie year behind the wheel.)
Technology is definitely cool, but you know, I still prefer reading maps and learning landmarks and making my own way through the world. I even like getting lost on occasion, because finding my way back to where I'm going is a little adventure.
We often refer to writing as a journey, and the story as a vehicle, so that got me thinking about what guides us when we're behind the novel wheel. At first the internal editor tries to stomp on the brakes every three sentences, but once you tell that bitch to shut up and make her sit in the back seat, you can work your way through the pages without any U-turns.
Every book is new territory for a writer, even when you're revisiting old, familiar friends. It doesn't matter how many times you've made the trip, it's different every time. Whenever I start a novel, a small part of me wonders if I can make it through to the end without getting sidetracked, road-blocked or lost. Arriving at the end of the trip is still always a nice, gratifying surprise.
I don't think I have a muse or a guide or a nag riding shotgun, but I get feelings while I'm writing that affect how I write. The most obvious one is what regulates my pacing -- it's not a voice that says Come on, come on, you're taking forever or Whoa, go any faster and you'll blow out their optic nerves, but it's almost like that. The flow of the words onto the page doesn't feel right, and I become aware that I'm crawling or teleporting my way through the prose.
Other novel GPS blips for me are problems with description, dialogue, action and character interaction. As I'm writing I can feel the scene turning bland and colorless or gaudy and loud, silent or noisy, motionless or confusing, or filled with stick or wallpaper people. Rather than backtrack, I'll insert notes to myself for the editing phase, i.e.: [more color here] [trim down conversation] [too much introspection/Phillipe] [get rid of hovering waiter] and move on.
Maybe someday they'll invent a novel GPS we can stick on our computers that tell us all these things to help us improve the quality of our stories while we're in the process of writing them. Until then we'll have to be content with finding our own way, making our own maps, learning the landmarks and even getting lost a little now and then. Sure, we may not get there as fast or as smoothly, but we won't have to give up that unexpected, pleasant feeling of accomplishment when we arrive.
Have any of you a story or novel GPS that keeps you on track? What does yours tell you?
*A very big pickup truck with two sets of two tires in the back. Great for hauling things like boats, ATVs, trailers, etc. (thanks to Rob in Denver for the correct spelling.)