Friday, September 5, 2008

Confessions #1 & #2

I'm getting awfully close to having the first chapter sewn up, which means I'll be sending out invitations to first readers soon, I hope! Progress has been much, much slower than I'd anticipated. I'm just now creeping up on five pages (single-spaced) and my normal pace is about that in a single session. I've sat down to write David's debut chapter several times now and spent hours and hours on it. I should probably keep track, come to think of it.

I realize that I definitely need to get better at just writing and worrying about editing later. But I just happen to be a pretty darned good editor, so it's hard for me to write below my own high standards for the purpose of just getting it out on the page. I need to work on this. Sometimes it's worth writing poorly on purpose to allow an idea to flow naturally onto the page in one seamless bolus of thought. I can always add color and fix weaknesses in a later session.

Confession #1: my favorite part of writing is actually the editing. I will usually jump the gun on an edit, starting to tweak a paragraph as soon as I pound it out. This is such a bad, bad way to do things. I'll add a colorful metaphor into the paragraph I'm focusing on, only to realize later that the page as a whole is entirely too colorful. Then I have the frustrating task of removing gorgeous sentences I spent perhaps 20 minutes dreaming up (or pilfering from one of my poetic works ;) Another drawback of this method is that it'll take me three weeks to finish a single chapter. Granted, that chapter is usually in pretty good shape, needing only minimal
revisions. I wouldn't feel embarrassed to show a friend an un-edited, finished chapter because I know that I've already scrutinized the whole of it during my writing process. There wouldn't be any major gaffes, just minor style issues and kinks in flow.

The good news is that I made a lot of progress yesterday. I fixed a minor continuity error, filled in a key transition and shocked myself with a really nice observation - so much so that I will no longer feel guilty about 'wasting time' doing Google map and image searches on every little thing when I'm at a loss for prose because it demonstrably pays off! Sometimes I hit upon a visual that sparkles in the narrative. David is on the campus of Yale:
"We followed her one block north on High Street and turned east on Grove at a tidy cemetery in possession of an imposing Egyptian Revival gate which bore the inscription “The Dead Shall Be Raised.” I felt like I had been dead for most of the day, buried in thought, and was now being resurrected to the present with each step. There was a distinct possibility I was marching toward my future. The urge to run came on me so fast that my legs actually twitched."

I am now really itching to take a trip out to Bloomington and just hang out on campus, get a feel for the architecture and the look of the place, who knows what just seeing will inspire! But I think I'll wait for the autumn. I have a suspicion that the campus is breathtaking when the leaves are changing.

You may have noticed from the excerpt above that David has developed an interest in architecture that I never consciously instilled in him. But it makes sense. It all stems from his love of structure. If he's feeling overwhelmed by his emotions, he'll look outside himself until he hits on some man-made thing or other upon which to fixate. He'll stare at a fountain, observing it's construction to calm his thought, and he'll just brush his feeling aside. It's too disturbing to him that he doesn't know what to make of his emotions. But the physical world, that he can understand. It is solid and quantifiable. Funny enough, though, this tendency could have led him to a love of nature, but it didn't. I haven't figured that one out, but it might just be because I have a thing for architecture and so that's what I gravitate toward in my description. I'll have to ponder this. But it's a good setup for my alternating first-person narrative scheme (that I'm still nervous about) because David will note all the environmental aspects of a given scene and Claire, being so in tune with the human element of any given equation, will be keen to observe the people who populate the scene. It's a nice balance. In theory. I've not yet put it into practice,though that's the plan for the weekend. Nail down David's chapter, move on to Claire's.

Confession #2: I have been researching agents. I know I'm way ahead of myself by prepping for the querying process, but keeping the ideal end product in sight helps me stay motivated. Besides, there is no such thing as being over-prepared, or over-educated about the industry. In all my research so far, I've discovered something rather remarkable: I'm not worried about writing queries and such. I'm actually very comfortable with it. Part of my comfort level may come from having been an editor before, albeit only for a short while. During my stint as an editor, I developed some skills that will be extremely useful to me as I prepare to shop the finished manuscript around. I'm quite good at distilling complex plots into compelling summaries, for one thing. And I have a courteous, professional tone. So I'm not worried at all about my outgoing queries. What comes back, though, will keep me up nights.

I fully realize that Project Reach may not sell. And that's okay. My original goal was to finish a novel before I turn thirty. Finish, not publish. I am coming up on my 27th birthday. An idea worthy of further development came to me, and I'm fortunate to have the time and the means to dedicate to writing. And so I am. If it gets no farther than my computer desktop, that's okay so long as I learn and grow from the experience.

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