Friday, July 6, 2012

starting with the goats

Unless I am very much mistaken, about twenty minutes ago I finished writing the first draft of my latest novel, Go Home, Miss America. The last chapter is very short, around 2,000 words, which puts the novel as a whole at about 81,000 words. So this is certainly not a "big" novel, but it's long enough.

How do I feel about having finished? I'm not sure. I'm not sure I have finished. All of my other books have ended with a passage that I wrote while working on the middle of the narrative, well before actually writing the last chapter, and so I always knew what I was writing toward when I closed in on the last pages. This book began as an experiment in writing into the unknown; the first couple of chapters were scratched out while I had no idea at all what I was writing about, and so now it seems that I'm ending the book the same way. I have no idea what endpoint I've been seeking, so I'm not positive that I know how to finish the narrative. The whole book is sort of one big middle, I see now. It starts in medias res and pretty much stays that way the entire time. So my "ending" is more of a long transitional passage, I think. But it's what I've got and I think it's the right ending so I'm calling it good, kids.

In a week or so Mighty Reader will get to have a look at this first draft, and then in a month or so I'll start poking at it again, but in the meanwhile, I'm going to relax and enjoy myself and read a bunch of books.

(I lie about relaxing; I'm going to do some work on the MS to Cocke & Bull but that will all be pretty easy and enjoyable work.)


  1. I just sent you an email, but again, here, YAY!!!!!!! 81k is a great word count!

  2. Congrats, Scott! Yay! I'll be very curious to see how you feel about this book and the new way you explored writing.

  3. Michelle, thanks! I will respond to your email soon!

    Davin, thanks! I'm not sure how I feel about the book yet. I have, however, found the below text, which is from the email I wrote to you on 8/15/11, the day after I started writing Go Home, Miss America:

    The first draft of "The Last Guest" or whatever I'm calling it is done. I've now begun to write a new book. So much for my plans. The new one is pissing me off, because I don't know how to write without an outline. It's like dancing alone in a huge, dark room. There's no reference point, no center, no walls, no nothing. Just me and a bunch of loosely-connected ideas. I have no idea how you do this. It scares me, truth to tell.

    I'm also worried because the writing is very modern American, and there are cell phones and the internet and the lead male character says fuck a lot while he's emailing his brother to talk about women. All very au courant I'm sure but somehow it strikes me as sort of predictable and shallow like a lot of modern American writing. So I don't know. I don't want to write about the past but I don't know what to say about the present aside from how little I find appealing about life and even I don't want to read that. I'm trying hard to find a shape, but I want to do it intuitively, organically from out of the material instead of looking at the 3-act structure and forcing the book into that. I also have no idea at all what happens when my two main characters meet up. Mostly I'm trying to not fall back onto lazy writer cliches.

    This weekend I finally took "Wind Up Bird Chronicles" off my shelf and am reading it. I'm on page 36 now. It's really good and strange. I'm reading Murakami during the day and Lydia Davis stories at night before bed. I don't know what this will do to my prose. My big hope is that I'll end up being more brave in terms of structure, because I'm really hating my writing just now. I think one reason I've jumped immediately from the detective novel into a new project is that I don't like the detective novel. I'm writing something without a strong plot because plot was a tyrant in the last book and I'm rebelling against that tyranny. Alas, when you tear down the city you must build something else in its place or there's nowhere to live. I don't know what to build now.

  4. I'm glad you found this. For me, the feelings you describe are the same ones I often feel. Although, I'm still not using many cell phones in my stories. I just can't do that yet.