Saturday, January 2, 2010

This happens every time

The loudest story in my head right now is the novel with the awkward (and definitely to be changed) working title of The Sweet Sleep of Death (makes it sound too much like a noir/ murder mystery. Which would be awesome, but is not what this is). And since I'm not under deadline or contract with anything right now, that's what I've been working on with the most focus.

I've mentioned before that I don't work from an outline of any sort, that I write stories in order to find out how they end. And that's definitely true here. This project started out when two sentences popped into my head one day:

Dreams and the Dead walk the streets of the City of Nyx. Dreams and the Dead, and both are mine.

And I kind of love that opening, and my point of view character, Siobhan Black. And I love writing the city, Nyx. I am having such fun writing this story, I cannot even tell you.

But about a week ago, things began to go wrong. My daily word count started slowing down. I wrote an entire scene - a scene that's really good, with an interesting secondary character - that is completely and utterly wrong for this book. So I took a break from writing new stuff, and concentrated on transcribing words from the notebook to the computer. And then the word count clicked past a certain number and I realized, oh, right, this is the point where it stops making sense.

Linger did this, too. And I really worried then: sent out a mass email to my Clarion classmates begging for readers, spent an hour on the phone with one of my instructors, because, Oh, dear Lord, I had left out stuff here and there, and written an entire character incorrectly, and fought against putting in a defining theme, but I had written what felt like so many words, so did I start over, or keep going?

The thing that I realized is, I could do both. I knew then, and know now, the gist of what I've done wrong (or not wrong so much as not true to the story). In the case of Linger, I made extensive notes on what to do for the rewrite, drew a line in the notebook to remind myself where things changed, and continued to write as if I had made the changes. I had never finished a novel-length project before, and I needed to let myself know that I could.

This time, I'm doing the rewrite now. Partially because I know that I can and will finish, and will not remain here, seduced by the search for perfection, but also because in Linger, I could see how the pieces would fit if I made changes and in this case, I can't yet. I feel like I am writing what T. S. Eliot described in "Little Gidding": "Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning." I need, in this case, to know every bit of the beginning before I can know the end. And I have confidence that I will get there, and that the words will be right when I do.


  1. Can I just say: I can't wait to read this. I don't even really know what it's about, but I am SO EXCITED!

  2. Thank you! I'm really excited about writing it - I think I'm realizing that a lot of the five finger exercises that I've done, and some of the broken short stories that I've written were practice to write this, so it's really full of stuff that I love. Will probably ask you to read an excerpt soonish if you have time/ inclination.

  3. Bravo! I know how hard writing can be and, specially, realizing you're not going in your right direction. So, keep up the hard work and never let anybody (yourself included) tell you you can't do it!

  4. Thanks for the encouragement. I really appreciate it. And so far, the revision is going well, and the story is stronger for it.