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?