Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Me and Antoshka, not writing

I have reached the point in the first draft of Go Home, Miss America where I'm about to write the final dramatized scene of the Catherine Lark story line. There's one more scene in the last chapter of the book involving Catherine, but that's mostly denouement where we learn the consequences of Catherine's actions; the scene I'm supposed to write next is--or should be--the last chance we have of seeing Catherine's story developing. It's the scene that should make the ending of her story line clear. It will point the way beyond the last page of the book into Catherine's future, etc. I'm not writing this scene.

Instead, I'm reading Volume 7 of Tales of Chekhov. Right now I'm reading the 1887 story "The Murder." It's quite fine. I can't wait to read the 150-page story "On The Steppe." I'm also reading Chekhov's letters, and last night I pawed through a short chapter of Bulfinch's Mythology and I'm also reading some Yeats poetry. I'm doing a lot of reading. And look: I'm writing a blog post. So I'm writing, too. I'm just not writing that last scene in Chapter 14 of my work-in-progress.

Frankly, I have very little idea what happens in that scene. Catherine is waiting at a bus stop. Violet Molloy crosses the street and waits at the same stop. The talk. They do not get along. A bus comes. They both board and sit together and continue to talk. We get Catherine's impressions of Violet. We get Violet's impressions of Catherine. Catherine gets off at her stop. We get Violet's internal monologue about love, life, marriage. End of chapter. Yes, that's the climatic scene in Catherine Lark's story line. I know, it fails to give the appearance of a climax. Such is the way of this book. I promise that there's some bodily harm in Chapter 15, though.

Yes, I said yesterday or whenever that whatever scene I was writing then was the most important scene in this chapter, but it turns out that I was wrong. This new unwritten scene is the most important scene in the chapter. Color me crazy at this point in the process. Go ahead.

As I say, I am not writing that scene. I know it's the right scene at the right time, but I can't find the hook, the entry point into the scene and so I sit and think about it and read my outline and notes again and fuss with other scenes in the chapter but I don't write that scene. So today, I swear, I'll get a good start on it. It may be the wrong way to begin the scene, but I'll do it anyway. If it's wrong, its wrongness will only make apparent what the right approach is. So I'll do it, but I don't like it. This book has been, in a lot of ways, a real bitch to write. Chapter 15 should be pretty easy. So I tell myself. It will be raining, and rain is always good.

I only write this post so that at this stage in the next novel, I can look back and assure myself that I've lived through this hell before so I can do it again. So nothing to see here. Move along.


  1. How did the scene-writin' go, Baimonster?

  2. I'll know in a couple of hours, after lunch. I write during my lunch hour and on the bus commute home.

  3. So 500-600 words of that scene down. I think it's okay. I'm not quite sure what's going on in the scene, but something surely is. I have made some notes about what I think will be the pivotal lines of dialogue, when it's time in the scene for those lines. I just have to build the rest of the scene toward these two vital moments. So I feel pretty good about it so far. Maybe I can finish the scene by the end of this week. It would be cool if I was already working on Chapter 15 next week. Chapter 15 will have a lot of high emotion and physical action.

  4. 500-600 on a lunch break is great! I'm realizing I don't make as many notes on my writing as you do. I revise, but the analytical process perhaps stays in my head more. That's probably because I work on a computer. Interesting.

  5. While I'm writing a scene I often get ideas for bits of dialogue or details I want to use later in the scene, so I write notes to myself in the margins of blank upcoming pages. And inside the front cover of my notebook are a couple of pages of notes. Eventually I keep adding to and amending those notes that there's no more room to write so I have to add pages. I also have notes in the back pages of my notebooks, with things like character names/traits, upcoming scene descriptions and ideas about possible character actions. Questions to myself, ideas about grouping narrative elements, etc.

    I like having a permanent record on paper rather than an ever-changing file on a computer because I can always look back and see what ideas I've rejected or changed and if I want, I can go back in time and use them instead. Or I reject ideas for a chapter but find places for them in new chapters. I also simply like the look of all that scribbling; it fascinates me and I tell myself that if I look at the type of passages I tend to revise most heavily, I will be able to learn something. So far all I've learned is that I can write in very tiny script when I'm running out of room on a page.

  6. Nothing interesting here, eh? Color you crazy? All I know is that the book might be a bitch to write, but I'm looking forward to reading it. I hope I get to read it. Do you think it's one you'll want to send to Rhemalda maybe?

    Your keeping track of your writing progress on your blog is what inspired me to start keeping track of progress on my blog. I don't keep an official calendar or anything, so the blog is the closest thing I have. It's helpful to look back, I think. I notice that with all of my projects, I panic that the book will never, ever work. That I am crazy. Of course, we all know I am. :)

  7. Um, Blogger apparently wanted to post my comment three times. Sorry.

  8. Blogger is crazy sometimes.

    I don't know what I'll do with this novel, whenever I finish it! I will certainly let you read the MS at some point after a revision or two. I'll make Malasarn read it, too.

    Writers who don't worry that the book isn't working are probably in trouble, if you ask me. Even if you don't.

    Anyway, I already have two finished books I think I'll shove at Rhemalda and see what they think. If they buy Patience and it sells, they might want two more books to complete a trilogy of philosophical detection. Have I mentioned that I have a second book outlined, at least in brief?

    I was actually planning on querying agents with Go Home, Miss America, just to see what would happen. It might be too internal, too much about religious faith maybe, for anyone. I have no idea who will like it. But it's got a lot of foul language, which probably makes it more marketable.

  9. I have a second Patience Quince novel outlined, that is.

  10. I'm finally about to start The Astrologer to officially blurb it! Yay! I'm excited to see what changes have happened. And, um, I'm elated that there could be more detective novels! I really think Patience could be an addicting heroine for fans. That means more sales and people reading your stuff. And other stuff you write later. And I want to read more about her, anyway. Is this after or before The Last Guest?

  11. Hurrah about The Astrologer! Forget that Flaubert hack and his madam. There are no big changes, but I fussed with the language on every page, almost. Hopefully it's all just sharper and more focused. Hopefully it all still makes sense without Shakespeare's character names. I worry about that.

    The three Patience Quince novels go in chronological order. So The Last Guest is first, and Circus in the Dust is second (Patience solves a double murder in a tiny, isolated Kansas town during a terrific dust storm that's shut down the railroad), and the untitled third starts in New York and follows her back to Algiers on an ocean liner where, of course, someone will turn up dead under suspicious circumstances. At some point Patience will actually read the letter she got from Ali before she came to America.

    Wine, cigarettes and a loaded pistol! That is transcendental detection!

  12. I say go, go, go on the detective novels! I want to know what that letter says, seriously. You already have a die-hard fan right here, you know? :)