Open Sesame!

I had lunch with a friend today, and she asked if I was writing anything, so I told her the story of my grieving woman, one of the two moribund works I’ve been slowly resurrecting.

It was gratifying to see her rapt face as the story unfolded, and her attention gave me a boost of ambition to finish the story. To be honest, though, I don’t need the boost — I’ve been enjoying working/playing with the manuscript.

I say working/playing, because it isn’t work — work connotes toil and energy expended with perhaps a monetary reward at the end, and though I have been working on the book, it hasn’t been work. More like puzzle play. I wrote many of the scenes a few months after my life mate/soul mate died, attempting to deal with my grief and record the pain before I NaNoWinnerforgot some of the particulars. It’s been long enough now that the pain is mostly a faint and bewildering memory, so working on the book, even the agonizing scenes, isn’t a hardship.

I started the novel as a NaNoWriMo project to see if I could meet the challenge of 50,000 words in a month. Despite being a slow writer, I did complete the required number of words, though to do so, each day I had to write whatever scene came to mind. I have a stack of scenes that have to be put into some sort of order before I do the difficult scenes, the fill-in sections, the transitions, the descriptions — all the parts that are hard for me to write but need to be included. That could take a while, since I only have about 40,000 words, which falls short of a full novel.

Now, however, I am typing up what I’ve written and trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. For example, I have a flashback scene that shows her dying husband laboriously filling page after page with what looks like his daughter’s name, and he keeps talking about his “sesame.” (Like my life mate/soul mate, the poor guy is not able to find the correct words to say what he means.)

In another scene, my grieving woman checks his computer to see if she can find his estranged mother’s address so she can notify her of her son’s death, and she comes across a file labeled “journal.” She clicks on the file, curious, because she’d never known him to keep a journal, and finds it password protected. Though she tries all the passwords she’s known him to use, she can’t open the file.

Now here’s the problem — which scene should come first? The sesame flashback or the journal scene? “Sesame” of course, is short for “open sesame,” which is what his poor cancer-addled brain is calling a password, though she doesn’t know that. If the sesame flashback came first, would it be obvious when the journal scene comes around that he’d been trying to figure out the password? If the journal scene comes first, would it be obvious when the sesame flashback comes around that he’d been trying to figure out the password?

Oh, that all my problems should be so insignificantly significant!


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.