Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I inherited my poor recall of facts from my mother

Modeling my habits on those of Trollope, I have begun revisions to Mona In The Desert immediately after having pushed my way through a jolly fine round of work on The Hanging Man. A rolling stone, dust never settles upon, etc. I think The Hanging Man is in good enough shape to ignore for a while, which is exactly what I'll do with it. Possibly for a few years. For now it's back to Mona, which I am surprised to find is longer than I'd thought. It's nearly 70,000 words already, and a month or two from now it will likely be quite a bit longer than that. And here I'd thought I'd written a skimpy old novella.

Mona in the Desert seems like a fine book, if you look at the second through fifteenth chapters (including all six Chapters 12). Chapter 1 is a mess, though. What it requires is story. This will take some work on the part of the author. Right now I am kidding myself that I'll sit down and calmly read through the whole ms before I begin fussing with it. As if I haven't already been rewriting the first pages for a month now. Anyway, that's my winter project, to turn the opening section of Mona into something that properly leads into the bulk of the novel, and also to expand on some of the ideas already in the narrative in abbreviated form. Wish me luck. None of the ideas I've had for the first chapter have worked so far. No, I can't just start it at Chapter 2. I've already thought of that, and no. And no. I have a few new, as yet untested, ideas I'll be pushing around next. Maybe one of them is the thing. The book is good, though. Really good. Some of my finest work.

11 comments:

  1. I am fascinated that you can put aside a MS of The Hanging Man for so long before giving it another look. My OCD-type personality could not manage that kind of self-discipline. Owing to my impatience when I was younger, story-writing, airplane model building, oil painting, a gardening were always problematic for me. Now I do not think I could wait because I would be worried about running of time. In any case, I wish you well in your revisions of Mona in the Desert.

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  2. Tim, I am sad to admit that at this point I have a good-sized drawer filled with unpublished novels, so putting one aside with an eye to having another look at it in a couple of years is no longer a big deal. In truth I have little hope these days of publishing anything I write; I keep at it because I enjoy writing novels, and because ma femme enjoys reading them. I've also learned, more or less, how to think about several novels at the same time. The whole time I was drafting The Hanging Man I was also thinking about restructuring the opening of Mona, and I've also been pushing around ideas for the next book I'll draft. Somehow I manage to keep them all straight. Possibly that's indicative of the simplicity of my novelistic vision. I have no idea. I will say that my habit of continually writing novels has cut back on a lot of other activities. And I do worry about running out of time. Maybe that's why I'm so willing to leap to the next project. I don't know. I can feel a sort of madness descending upon me as I age, a madness of impatience, a mania to get things done. It worries me.

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  3. As for a person worrying about a descending madness, I have been assured by people who know about these things that worrying is a good sign. Blissful unawareness (i.e., without worry) is a bad sign. So, in my case, as I wind down my teaching career and contemplate my next steps (which might include some efforts at writing), I try to ignore (and not worry about) an irksome reality: I can remember more and more about the early years--my experiences in 2nd grade for example--but I more and more often do not remember what happened a few days ago. Weird. I wish you well in your writing-revising-and editing adventures. With your earlier success (i.e., The Astrologer), you should not give up on publishing more of those manuscripts. Your readers await!

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  4. Also, I've developed a sort of "leap frog" methodology over the years, where I seem to have several mss in various stages of metamorphosis. The most recent first draft always makes me a better writer, and able to go back to a gestating work for further, better revisions than if I'd just kept digging away at the same novel. I like to have one in planning, one in drafting, and one awaiting revisions. I don't believe in constant revision but I do strongly believe in multiple revisions over time. And I simply always have to be working on something, new or old, or I go mad.der.

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  5. "skimpy old novella ..." I think planning to write a novella is a silly thing, at least in my experience. CATCH was meant to be a simple short story. It turned into a novella. CINDERS was meant to be completely on its own and I ended up writing two more to go with it.

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  6. I also have that kind of memory, and also passed from my mother... Makes it easy to put something away and then revise. But hard to find the car keys.

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  7. How come you can skip the word verification without being overrun with spam? Every time I try, I am just buried in ridiculousness.

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  8. Michelle, you know how stories just sort of keep growing. I keep stumbling across ideas that I want to somehow fit into Mona. And I think (hurrah) that I've figured out how to restructure the opening (I will write an entirely new first section and use hunks of the existing opening as a sort of interlude later on; that might actually work).

    Marly, I have trained myself to always put valuables in the same place. The keys always go by the front door or there is a general panic.

    As for spam, I'll bet you get more traffic than I do. But what I noticed was that most of the spam was hitting older posts, so I set up comment moderation on every post more than 10 days old. It's a global setting on the blogger dashboard somewhere. Almost nobody but spammers comment on posts more than a few days old. That seems to have taken care of 99% of the problem.

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  9. Late to the party, but I am glad you are getting to Mona. I have always been intrigued with this novel (since you posted a short excerpt) and I will anxiously await its finish.

    Even if you never publish it, I will gladly pay you $5.00 to read it. Or more.

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  10. Anne, I'll send you a copy of the MS when I have something solid, don't worry. Also, belated happy birthday to your Monster. Next year, maybe, you will throw her that party.

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  11. Oh, thanks for that spamming-thought! You're right; comments on older pieces tend toward spammers... Except genealogy posts and Howard Bahr posts...

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