The fun part.

This morning, because the New York Public Library near work doesn't open til 11am on Fridays, I'm working in Starbucks. This morning, because I have spent the past week revising a printed copy of the first six chapters of my novel, my work is almost mindless, adding and deleting words to a pre-existing document. This part of the process is different than the rest of it.

First is the brute force, chopping away at a plot, figuring out what actually happens. I can only do this for so many pages, can only advance so far, before I need to revise. This brute language hurts my eyes (and my confidence); often, I wonder if I've lost the gift of listening for the right words while I'm at this stage. I think that I will never write a beautiful sentence again. I imagine pages and pages of terribly-constructed paragraphs, barely English, hacked and boring. These are hard moments.

Then, when I've thrashed through the happening, I print it out. I read slowly, I scrawl new paragraphs, I strike out words, entire sentences, paragraphs. I see where I've been repetitive, I see where things don't match up. Didn't I already write about her freckles? What is this, an ode to freckles? I chop the excess freckle sections.

This second stage is fun in a way; using pen always feels like you're getting somewhere. "Look!" you want to show the guy at the next table, "I'm working! Here is my proof." But then I realize that this working is like a more refined version of the first step. I am still constructing plot. I am still figuring out what happened. When should the reader get that flashback? One chapter ends on Saturday night but the next starts on Saturday morning. Shit. These are hard moments too.

And then. Then comes the polish, the spit-shine, the stage in which I start to think "maybe I should print a copy of this and give it to X to read..." It's the only part of the process that gives me tiny pulses of confidence, electric sparks of smartly turned-phrases. Three words that I use to describe someone's hair that will stick with me for the next few days of subway rides and quiet moments while I eat my lunch in a park.

This morning I moved from phase 2 to phase 3. I typed up the hand-written changes from the page and started to play with the words. It's probably the only reason I can write this blog post right now... writing was fun again this morning and it made me feel good.

Even if the other parts aren't fun, I find myself wanting to write more than I ever have in my life. When the alarm goes off and I'm exhausted, the decision to stay in bed or not is never based on whether I want to write. I always want to write. It's usually based on how late I think I will need to stay up later that day or if I have packed my bag and lunch or if my work clothes are already in the bathroom so I won't have to wake Chris.

I'm working against a September 15 deadline to submit pages for entry into an advanced fiction class in New York. I also owe my Iowa writing teacher a short story for September 1. Then there's the Paris fiction contest that Edith sent to me the other day. And then November 1 for submission to a collection of Iowa-inspired stuff for the 2010 summer anthology.

Where did these dates come from? Where did these pages come from? Why have I never been able to write like this before? You can drive yourself crazy pondering the timing of it all. But like a quiet bird, I'm trying to ignore the fact that it's happening, hoping that the inspiration and the drive will stay a while if I pretend I don't see it. Shhh.

1 comment:

LS said...

"I chop the excess freckle sections."

I love that.