The piecing days. The finding ones. The choices from among many choices. That’s where the book is now. And it’s a condition as fascinating as it is frightening.

Process goes this way: Go back to the several pages of notes. Take them one at a time—a deliberate narrow-focus on small tasks. Walk each one through the book’s pathways and find the places where it fits best…sometimes several.

An example. One of the characters vanishes by the end of the book. Not literally…more a forgetting that he was there. He is an element of change, not a character of depth; a tool to execute a more important character’s will. We don’t know him. We never hear him think. We’re not meant to. But he just goes away, and he can’t be permitted to do that. So now I’m tracking where he is, where he goes; the string that he follows to the end, to be tied off tidily at the finish.

Multiply that single effort by a dozen more considerations, and you’ll understand where I am right now.

All caps for raw ideas that want cooking. Greyed-out type that holds the original version of a rewritten section. Red for the progress of a particular plot development. Yellow or green highlights that say “pay attention.” Hunks of boldface, plucked from another source, also to be smoothed. Bracketed notes to self. Not a deliberate system (which I could never keep straight in my head), but habits that have grown organically from what I do. Apparent madness that’s fox-crazy. A doorway to attention.

I don’t expect it to make sense. It doesn’t need to.

These are my keys to small, finite tasks, executed one at a time; the way to find the most likely place for an idea, a character, an emotional development, a threat. This is how I carry the whole book in my head…by keeping my eyes down and focused on the path a few steps ahead. And it’s why the book looks like a patchwork quilt right now.

Oddly enough, this mishmash, this seeming-chaos, is clarity-in-disguise. An unsightly collection of mismatched parts from which the persuasive whole is freed to show itself. As in any quilt, we lay all the bits in front of us and we stand back from them. We squint at them from a distance, looking for the balance of color and shape. Time enough to make everything pretty when all the pieces are in place.

For now, in this unfinished quilt of ideas and images, chaos is beauty.

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