The last month or so has been an amazing transformative time for me in terms of my process. I've been working on a novel for over two years and I'm little over halfway finished with the first draft. I'm a slow writer, it's true, but unlike short stories that came before, this project has been particularly excruciating because the chapters refused to come to me in a straight linear fashion, but rather in stand-alone story form, and therefore would require me to not only write the story, revise and revise until it worked as a viable stand-alone, and then publish it (Okay, maybe that part has more to do with my insecure writer self than the process), after which I would need to go back in, alter the stand-alone so that I could weave it seamlessly into my forced linear narrative. All painstakingly slow work. And I was frustrated, dismayed, frightened, that all my novels to come would have to be written down in this way and well, it didn't make me give up, but nearly.
But! Along comes this other novel, a novel that I had begun three years ago but had put aside to write the other. And here it comes back to me, knock, knock, knocking on my door to write. it. now.
For three months or more I thought about it and worried about it and wondered can I just stop writing my first novel in the middle like this to write another. What am I thinking? Am I to now spend the next two years toiling over an elusive idea that refuses to allow me to tame it just to end up with TWO half finished novels? Ai! Even more daunting is the fact that while I may write the first draft of a short story in a week or two, it takes me months, sometimes a whole year, to revise that story. So, with this knowledge of my process and my so very limited abilities, I sweated over this decision until I finally decided to let go of any preconceived notions of what a writer should do, and just write what I want to write. What am I doing if I'm not writing for my own enjoyment? This is my journey after all and who says I need to walk it a certain way? As soon I gave myself permission to write this other story, the one that's burning to be written, and for no one else, at this point, other than myself, it started flowing. And after a few weeks of listening and writing, I've learned that to respect my own process is key, that I can actually write in a straight linear fashion (hooray!!), and that my writing this book will be key to learning how best to write my other book.
I'm going to follow this spark until it fizzles out. I've been putting in hours upon hours a day and the words are coming in a flurry and I'm writing as quickly as I can. And I know after I'm finished will come the fun part: revision, the whole part of the process I most love.
And when I'm finished with the first draft I have some amazing reading waiting for me:
Precious, by Sandra Novack; Nothing Like an Ocean by Jim Tomlinson; Big World by Mary Miller; Secret Son by Laila Lalami; The Greatest Gift and Women Up On Blocks by Mary Akers; and the latest by two of my favorite writers: Antonya Nelson and Mary Gaitskill.
These are the carrots that are keeping me in the chair. Happy reading when I'm finished!
In writing news, I'm excited that REAL, a journal that has published three of my stories previously, is publishing another one in April.
And lastly, because I saw this first on Sandy Novack's site and was so inspired that I wanted to have it here, too:
- Originally from Vermont, I now live in North Carolina. My work can be found in recent issues of REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Jabberwock Review, The Emerson Review, Storyglossia, The MacGuffin, Confrontation, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, wigleaf, Pank, and Gargoyle #57, among others. One of my stories has been translated into Farsi by Asadollah Amraee, and many others by Jalil Jafari, two of which have been published in the Iranian journal, Golestaneh Magazine. Currently, I'm an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. I'm also working on two novels and a short story collection. In 2011, I was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Contributor Scholarship for the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.