Friday, December 7, 2012

The 80% Solution

I have, at this point, written several different beginnings for Chapter 12 of Mona in the Desert, a work-in-progress. I can't quite decide how to continue with the story. The pressure at this point in the drafting process always increases because I am of course terrified that I'm about to ruin the whole thing with a clownish misstep, a sudden misunderstanding of what I'm doing with the book, or a cowardly hiding behind cliche. Or something. Anyway, I keep writing "chapter 12" at the top of a fresh page and beginning again with a different opening gambit. I blame Davin Malasarn, frankly, for egging me on to write my last draft (Go Home, Miss America) without an outline which turned out well enough that I pushed ahead and am now writing Mona without an outline. Which leaves me dangling in space, as it were, unsure where to put my feet next. Damn you, Malasarn.
     I figure I'm about 80% of the way through, which translates into about 10,000 or so more words to write in this first draft. It'll be more short novel than novella, but that's okay, and it'll likely expand a bit more during revisions (slated to begin when? 2014 or so?), but all of that's moot if I can't figure out what chapter 12 is going to be. I am tempted to simply incorporate into the narrative every variant of chapter 12 that I've written (or am writing), giving the reader a succession of abandoned Chapters 12, one after the other. That's an attractive idea sure to annoy prospective agents and editors and even readers, God bless 'em. Which is, of course, all the more reason for me to do it. Which gives me the further idea of going back through the MS and creating variants of other chapters, possibly giving different versions of the story than what's already written. You could have three Chapters 3, or two Chapters 7 and the like. Yes, an intriguing idea.
    Possibly what's missing from Chapter 12 is Olive O'Hurleighy doing the ironing. Yes, that could be it. I'll know more after lunch.
    Current wordcount (I add for my own reference) is 50,669.

     Also, despite all the talk recently about a novel concerning a Wittgensteinian philosopher, a Constance Garnettian translator and a Sylvia Beachesque publisher, I am pretty sure that the next book I write will be the long-awaited Nowhere But North, about an ill-fated American expedition to Antarctica in 1914. I seem to be thinking about that one a lot these days, and making a lot of notes. Surely that's indicative of something, yes?

     Also, also, chapters 3 and 4 of Cervantes' Don Quixote, Book II are clearly prepostmodernist literature (with at least three timelines collapsing impossibly into a single afternoon as the characters discuss reader reception of and continuity errors in the novel Don Quixote, Book I, which, given the lack of a fictional chronological gap between Book I and Book II, has not had--in Cervantes' fictional world--an opportunity to have been written yet), a good 150 years before Laurence Sterne. All of this newfangled experimental literature has always been with us. Everything old is new again, etc.


  1. For some reason, I thought this post would be about Sherlock Holmes...

    You're pantsing it? Who are you, and what did you do with Bailey?

  2. Not only was there somehow time for Part I to be written and published, but there is also - well - you'll see.

  3. Charlie, writing fiction is a lot like transcendental detection. No, don't ask for details; trust me on that one. I will say that I've known for a while how the book will end (more or less), so I've had an idea toward which I'm writing. That's generaly been my procedure with each novel (though in my last book I really had no clue for the longest time where things were going).

    I wrote a good 1000 words over lunch today. I have no idea if I'm any closer to writing Chapter 12, though.

    Tom, Book II is amazing so far; so funny and so well written. Cervantes spent those ten years between books sharpening his pen, and thinking a lot about what makes a good book. I can't wait to get back to it.