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SpareOctober 8, 2004

The Pioneer said that she has been "circling" around her novel now, and I find that word suits exactly what I've been doing lately with mine. It's there. It just needs to be finished. Then it needs to be rewritten. And maybe rewritten again after that. But can I finish it without a rewrite? Conversely, could I start a rewrite without finishing it? It's so BIG. I'm proud that it's so big, but at the same time it's like someone who collects, say, hubcaps, and the collection makes him happy, but one day he looks around his small apartment and it's no longer fun -- it's a health hazard, hubcaps piled to the ceiling and hidden in the suitcases on the shelves, teetering and ready to fall. (I'm talking about pages here, people. Get your mind of my yarn stash.) I have too many pages.

I have this thing in my mind -- I can't really call it an image, can I? But it feels like an image. In it I've taken the novel and pared it down and removed all the ways people get places and all the filler dialogue set over cups of coffee or bottles of beer (hell, there go at least 200 pages right there), and it becomes spare and lovely. Did you ever read Carole Maso's Ghost Dance? It remains in my mind What A Brilliant Novel Should Be. Alarmingly gorgeous. Erudite. Clever enough to make the reader feel special and chosen. She might have been a little too clever for me, actually, since I put it down one day and never picked it back up. But in my mind, my novel sits next to hers in its brilliant spareness. In reality, my fiction writing is a lot more like the everyday prose that I spill here -- sloppy, loved, rushed, careless, happy, not overly thought-out. Kind of like my knitting style, too. Okay, kind of like ME.

So why would I want to be Carole Maso-ish? Dunno. But I do, somehow. And that's what frustrates me when I sit down to do the real work -- that inability to breathe on my work and make it come out like hers. I'd have more luck running a marathon. No, wait....

I'm reading (finally) Art & Fear by Bayles and Orlando, and it's got me thinking. Obviously. A couple of things have struck me from it: "Vision is always ahead of execution.... and uncertainty is a virtue."

That vision? It's so far ahead of the execution that it's literally impossible to force this many pages that are already written into said vision. No matter how much I'd love a slender, tightly poetic novel (Housekeeping springs to mind), I ain't got one of those. I've got one in which cats run up curtains and little old ladies get confused and girls just don't know what to do about the little things, let alone the big'uns. And lots o'pages. I'm just set for supersized, I think. A&F says, "A piece grows by becoming specific." The most imaginative part of writing is the very beginning, when the first sentences are being placed. As each subsequent sentence is written, more and more options fly out the window (unless, of course, you're writing one of those neo-post-modern avant garde beat-the-drums let all the words out and not worry about sentence form or structure or logic kind of books, in which I wish you all the best in your weed-smokin' quest). In my novel, I've painted myself into a corner. Or, since I'm not that good at painting, I've mopped myself into one part of the kitchen, and I'm not sure how to get out of it without leaving my dirty footprints all over my nice clean floor. (I know. The floor might need to get a little dirty. Aargh.)

But writing about it helps. Looking at it helps. Just hefting it from table to floor to backpack helps remind me that something must be done. I want to finish it, if only to be able to start something new. I may be able to have lots of different things on the needles, but this novel thing requires monogamy. Cheating would just be too complicated, and I'd say the wrong thing to the wrong book, call one the wrong name, and everyone would hate me. I don't lie well. It would get ugly, fast.

So, to keep on Finishing. I feel like I've been this close for so long. A while longer, I think.

Happy weekend, all. Live a little dream in there, wouldja?

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Comments

Get those footprints on the floor. You can always mop it again later. You can't do the "wrong" thing. If you forge ahead and finish this draft, it's not like that work is set in stone. You're getting the raw clay out onto the table. You'll mold it, take bits away there, add bits here in revision. And the cool thing about writing is that if you cut something, you can always add in back in later. Take that leap, doll. Really. My cliff's right next to yours and I promise to jump if you do.

(Bonus points if you can respond in even more tired mixed metaphors than I've used here. Oh--and the most important thing: I LOVE YOU!!! Don't you dare try to go force your prose to come out sounding like it was born in someone else's throat. Your exuberance, your abundance, your LAYERS...these are things that make you Rachael and these are things we love about you. I already know these are things I'll love about your novel. So there. And I'm onboard as a reader if you need another set of eyes.)

(mosquito) MWAH!

I have novels in the drawer - they are great but they aren't the kind of thing publishers want, apparently. Even the lesbian detective ones with the great sex scenes in them. But you gotta keep dancing even when no-one's eatching...

I have 4 thoughts, possibly not the most poetic; but thoughts none the less.
First, there must be something about your writing style that pulls people in and holds their attention, because my friend I know you've seen the statistics on how many people come to read your stories every day.
Second, I have read many good books that are slim and many that are "hefty". Gameboy (who doesn't enjoy reading) has read every single Harry Potter book, and has even read the last 2 twice. It isn't the size, it's the story.
Third, you're a talker so it would seem necessary that your novel would be on the hefty side to let people hear your voice.
Fourth, and finally, how about you choose a trusted friend, someone who can give you constructive criticism without hurting your feelings, and set a deadline for you to hand them your novel for the first read. All you have to do is finish it, don't start the re-writes, let them read it and listen to their thoughts about the story.

Good Luck! My thoughts are with ya!

Hi Rachael!
I'm having a good laugh here about both of us. Don't you think it's a wee bit funny that we could both write an entire trilogy on the goblins surrounding getting the novel done? Perhaps we should both Seinfeld-it and just write about not writing from now on! Those words flow so easily.... And what is it within us that says the Real Writing is the hard stuff? We could go on and on about that, couldn't we? *hee*
XXOO

Keep going on that dream girl! I totally admire anyone who even attempts a novel, on a good day I feel that I am doing well to even get a coherant post for blogging!

I think you've hit the nail on the head. You have to finish this thing and start something new. Your life is moving on to a new stage, your art must also...otherwise you run the danger of constantly rewriting this book until it is something completely different. There comes a time when you just have to say "That's it. Good enough!" (At least that is how it is with my painting.) Start getting your work to a publisher. They will let you know if you need further work. Take the leap! You can do it! Besides, I'd love to read some of your work...other than the blog!

You could always end by everything just being one big dream for all the characters...OW! Quit throwing stuff! OW!

Seriously, if it helps, I've found writing alternate endings--some completely ridiculous and offgenre-- can help break blocks and make "right" endings happen. Kind of like running in water one day, running on a treadmill the next, trail, street, different things getting you to your goal little by little by helping you find what feels good, what fits, what's fun.

Ech - I know how you feel about wanting your work to more closely resemble the style of X's, because you find their work so admirable and satisfying, such a perfect embodiment of mastery of your chosen medium... it's a hard thing to remember that the reason you're doing the thing you do is to express yourself. That's the self that is yours, with the voice that is yours. I am very excited to read a novel you wrote, and I think I would be sad if it didn't have the conversations over beer and coffee. Part of what makes your blog so compelling and such an unfailing joy to read, is those details and asides. Kiss and Hug. :)

while authors often apologize for it, novels with conversational style are generally much more cherished and read much more often than those without. during grad school my best papers always came back with comments "great conversational style, draws reader in, keep it up!"

don't be worrying about that part of it. (the worry is part of the procrastination process pour moi. that's why i say don't do it hee hee.)

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! What an amazing day. I'm just over the moon. You and my Secret Pal sure make a great team. Can't wait to post to my blog about the utter fabulousness of the Knit Out!

Don't force your writing into something it's (or you're) not, sweetie. Like Cari said, you're getting the clay on the table. (Wait, what does that *mean*?)

Hi!!! Thanks for hosting such an awesome knitout. What fun it was. Hope that we can do something like that again sometime-- it was definitely the highlight of my weekend.

I'm looking at finally writing my novel first draft for NaNoWriMo. I've got to be out fo my head, but I need the deadline to get me moving. Good luck with the ending!

Girlfriend...get yourself a copy of Stephen King's book "On Writing".
Gives you a new non-traditional perspective about novel writing and is an easy read.
I bought it out of curiosity and now I'm considering writing again if only for the sake of writing

Yeah, me again, 'cause I love you and this is important. Stephen King?! "How to write absolute crap and get paid a lot to do it." Please don't read any books on writing. You know this, though. (Stephen King? The mind reels, the stomach churns... forgive me. I'm a snob, yes, but with good reason. It's a Koigu vs Red Heart issue, isn't it? I like good writing. I like good yarn. No Red Heart. No Stephen King.) What the hell. A book on writing can only be a book about how someone else does it. The point is to do it the way YOU do it. You know what you need to do. It's just that what you have to do is scary. Deep breath. Lots of chocolate. Now, go.

XO

you sound like me. i'm the same way with writing...it just keeps going and going... but hell, you have to start with something. you can always pare down later. besides, who is to say what the "right" way to write is or isn't? i say just let those characters live their lives. and at some point, decide when you need to step aside from the telling of their stories. after all, you have a life to live as well. and many other stories to tell. :)

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.

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