Monday, December 2, 2013

spinning wheels and shiny gears: mumblings about revision

I think I'm about 2/3 of the way through the first attempt at a revision to the new novel I'm calling The Hanging Man. I am not exactly reading it; when I've made my way to the last sentence of the MS I will still not have read the book. Which is odd and a bit disorienting, but that's the way of it. I'm elbow-deep in details of prose and character and story, but I can't stand back and have a look at the whole yet. I am still working to build up a sense of the whole from the spinning wheels and shiny gears and connecting rods and levers of the narrative. I have no real idea what it will look like when I'm done; I'm not done yet.

The novel is full of conflict, unsettlement and dissatisfaction. It rubs itself the wrong way. This is what I think I intended, but I have no idea how successful it will be. No idea at all. I'm trying some new ideas out, small new ideas to be sure; this is not a reinvention of the novel like Finnegans Wake or To The Lighthouse, but I am exploring new territory, I think. I can't be sure at this stage. Plus, there is a metaphysical stance at the root of this story that perhaps makes me uncomfortable. I am uncomfortable because I believe the metaphysical stance to be a statement of truth, of uncomfortable truth. Spoilers, sorry.

16 comments:

  1. Writing is a bit like what you are describing, isn't it? Many writers, myself included, would say something like this: I do not know what I am thinking until I have written it. More than a few writers have also claimed they had little or no idea what would happen to their characters once they had turned them loose on the pages. I think there is something positive to be claimed for that kind of process. I hope you are pleased when you get around to reading what you have written. wish you success!

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  2. I don't know, I'm much more confident when drafting than when revising. Drafting is all bold assertion for me; revisions are all questions and balancing and testing. Neither job tells me what I'm actually building, though, so certainly it's true that I have no idea what I've said until I've finished saying it. More and more often, I have no idea why I've said what I've said, and that pleases me. I offer that up as a mark of artistic growth and pray I'm not just kidding myself.

    I don't believe in my characters as characters. They do not act at all. They're more like places where the narrative gains a certain particular form of focus; I don't think of them as people though, and I only refer to them as such when talking to readers. It would otherwise be something like an architect talking about the inner life of his most recent project's doors. Which is a neat idea for a story.

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  3. My own experience is perhaps germane: When I have read some of the things I wrote in the past, I am stunned. I had no idea that I wrote that way. Sometimes that is a positive reaction. Sometimes it is not. It is almost as if another person had written it. Weird!

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  4. Postscript: As an example of what I just noted, starting Wednesday, I am beginning (at my blog) a serialized "republication" of a previously written and published lengthy essay on Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood. I sometimes wonder about who wrote all those words. It is like a strange time-machine.

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  5. They are vague spoilers, Mr. B. Im' excited to read this book. I've always liked the title, and the idea of being uncomfortable is pleasing to me.

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  6. Dr M, you should have some version of the book in your hands before the end of the year. I do not say which year, precisely. Possibly 2013. We'll see.

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  7. The mysterious R. T. has been here! Saw you at his house as well... And I think this sounds good, properly mystifying to the author.

    And I like the architect and doors idea! (Is a door's inner life inside the door, or the result of movement, or meditation on what happens in the chamber within (or without) or something else entirely?

    By the by, I am doing that terrible thing, cleaning my house. And if I do not find your book in the next week, I may give up and ask you for an e-copy. However, I know it is lurking somewhere close by and probably laughing at me.

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  8. There are plenty of interesting questions to ask about doors, doorways, chambers, barriers and openings, and all of that. Hmm. Hmm.

    We cleaned the house (somewhat) for Thanksgiving guests. All sorts of forgotten treausures turned up! I don't call a copy of The Astrologer a treasure by any means, but I'll happily give you a copy if you like. Let me know if you want to foolishly slander a few hours with it.

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  9. Well, I am planning on reading your treasure ("my precious") soon, but I want to read my own copy made out of paper. If I can find it...

    Portals are always fascinating to fool with in writing.

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  10. Scott, do you have enough spare copies of The Astologer to supply the upcoming demand?

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  11. Indeed, Scott, I'm embarrassed to admit that The Little Professor has been the overdue catalyst, so count me among those who will be looking to libraries, bookstores, publisher, and author.

    And as AR(Tom) has noted, get ready for the tsunami of demand.

    Ah, it will an author's dream!

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  12. Crikey! I think I have maybe three spare copies of the book, not counting my marked-up reading copy. Maybe I'll self-publish the darned thing. Just for the educational market.

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  13. Perhaps a Kindle version through Amazon would be an option.

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  14. Yes, actually, I've been giving away the kindle version. I just think that in a classroom, students should be marking up a paper copy of a book. I'm old-fashioned that way.

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  15. Well, I'm going to find mine! It's in here . . . somewhere. Just found my missing exercise DVD (drat), after all.

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  16. Exercise DVDs make excellent garden ornaments.

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