I can barely contain my excitement. I had a huge breakthrough with the book this morning that has literally changed everything, my entire perspective, and approach to writing it. I’ve been feeling a tiny bit “stuck” – there was something missing and it was hampering my progress. I am discovering that writing is like putting a puzzle together – at first there are bits and pieces scattered all over the place and you have no idea where to put anything. So you just start with one and focus on finding a fit for that piece and so on until you begin to see the bigger picture.
In this case, it had been (sort of) staring me in the face the entire time – aren’t the most obvious answers usually right there? We are either not ready to receive the message or refuse to. It was a character, or rather family, that was going to play a role in the book anyway, but I’ve realized that role is primary and not secondary. I am writing about them as well as the Lorrha Missal; the history of the book and their history intersects in a really interesting way. This is their story and their story in a broad period of Irish history. It took several months and a whole lot of fumbling around to realize that this is what these books will be about. And, yes, I can’t tell this story in one book, so it will be more than one. It’s just too long – the period of time I am writing about covers 1,000 years. Unless I can pull off a Virginia Woolf Orlando-type device, it can’t be just one book. I’m still writing about monastic Ireland, Vikings, and illuminated manuscripts, but the lens through which the story will be told has changed and will continue beyond the 9th century. I had wanted to see through the story of the Lorrha Missal all the way to its return to Ireland in the 19th century and I think I have finally found a plausible way to do that and also fulfill my desire to write more about Irish history.
Now rather than having these amorphous shapes that are wandering around in my mind trying to talk to me, they are becoming more fully formed. Having had this epiphany will make my visit to the Burns Library next week all the more productive. Now back to work!