Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Against the sky (Mona in the Desert excerpt)

Forty years, more or less, before Gemma wished me good luck with Josephina, Gemma’s virgin mother walked south along the highway under a shimmering white sky. A few cars slowed as one man after another offered Mona a ride to wherever she might be going. I’ll walk, Mona said. It’s not far. Well where are you headed, Miss? Not far, thanks. By now she could see the smudge of Albuquerque ahead and she’d fallen into a rhythm, her arms swinging at her sides, her steps regular and long and the sun felt good on her shoulders. Fair-skinned as the O’Hurleighy women are, Aunt Mona never burned and the thought of how brown and glowing her flesh would be when she returned to Roberto pleased her. The air tasted of diesel and dust and Mona suspected that a blister was coming on her right heel but she walked on, satisfied and determined. Love is an energy, hope is a current passing through our bodies, the future an electromagnetic field in which our lives vibrate forever. Mona would never be this happy again and she almost—but not quite—knew that this moment was the center point, the fulcrum around which everything else moved for her. Almost, but not quite. She walked on, swinging her arms, until she came to the city in the desert. Her first stop was a gas station where she bought a bottle of Coke and a pack of cigarettes. A mile to the west, turkey vultures hovered over the Rio Grande valley, tiny pricks of black against the sky.
I have completed 14 chapters, for about 66,000 words. I thought this book was going to be 14 chapters long, but it looks like there will have to be an additional chapter because I still haven't made my way to the scene that makes the book necessary. I have no idea at all how long chapter 15 will be, but I swear that's the final chapter in this novel, which was supposed to be a 50,000-word novella. Things are getting out of hand chez Bailey.

15 comments:

  1. This passage shows that integration of internal and external that you've described in the past. The physical conditions she's experience spill over to her feeling about love. I knew this whole story was about her getting a bottle of Coke.

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  2. I expect a big promotional tie-in from the Coca-Cola people. Cheeseburgers and Cokes are a recurring thing in this book.

    I can't believe I am not done with the first draft yet. I manfully resist hurrying through just to be finished.

    And I still haven't read your Cyberlama 2 excerpts. Soon, honest.

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  3. This book seems really poetic, and I like that! Don't worry too much about it being longer. All my books seem to do that. I start them out thinking they'll be short. I like short. Then they just grow and grow and grow.

    Favorite line: "Love is an energy, hope is a current passing through our bodies, the future an electromagnetic field in which our lives vibrate forever."

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  4. That line is very important thematically. I tried hard to make this book poetic, to really elevate the language and be as figurative as possible. It might go too far; I don't know. My next book will be far more restrained. In fact, the plan is to have no internal points of view, to use no similes, and then there are a couple of other restraints to make me work harder. I am also going to put together a highly-organized outline for this one. I've had enough of winging it. For now.

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  5. Yeah, not being able to say "the widget was shiny like an oil slick on a lake" or whatever will force me to better describe the thing itself, be it a widget, a sky, or a state of mind.

    Not being able to say "Soandso thought suchandsuch" will force me to better dramatize the living world of the novel, to work harder to give the reader an awareness of the characters. The trick will be to build a warm-blooded, emotionally rich narrative. In other words, I am throwing away two of my favorite tools and seeing how well I can write with the tools I have left.

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  6. You are so awesome, Scott. These are the reasons you're a better writer than I am. But maybe I'll steal your idea and do more of this in my own writing. I've got to stretch more!

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  7. Aw, shucks. You make me blush. I just get bored easily and have to make the very process of writing each book different from whatever I've been doing. That's one reason I'm going back to an outline for the next one: the discipline of all that up-front planning will be something I haven't done in 2 years so it'll seem fresh and new and interesting.

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  8. I can see getting bored. I tend to get that way, so I kept writing in different genres. Now I just want to stick in one genre and fiddle with my writing approaches instead. :)

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  9. Yeah, find the stuff you're moved to write about and then work on craft. I'm writing about how to follow a moral compass, I think. I don't really write about anything else. "Love thy neighbor" has endless possibilities for a novelist.

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  10. I think the message I keep saying over and over again in my books is "Stop doing nothing."

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  11. Who are you saying that to? My message is really to me, because I need moral guidance and I know it. Though I have another, coded and secret, message in my books: read more Shakespeare.

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  12. Each time I write a story and realize the flaws of my characters, I also realize that I'm talking to myself and telling myself the same thing over and over again. My other coded message is "Lighten up."

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  13. I think you're right. I do write about family. It's all about that kind of unit, it seems, and the interactions and importances of that.

    Do you think it's bad that we have the same messages over and over in our writing?

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  14. It's interestig to me, but it's also disappointing. I wish I had more dimensions.

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