Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Having a Summer Romance with Your Writing - Part Two

Last month, on this blog, I declared my intention to have a torrid summer romance - with my writing. I guiltily decided it would be an illicit summer romance: I would cheat on my barely begun book under contract and have a writing fling, writing something just for fun, something just for me.

We're now halfway through the summer, and I haven't done that.

For I decided, full of sheepish apologies, to slink back to my cast-off work-in-progress and find a way to fall in love with it instead. Sure, we had problems, all relationships do. But my book and I had made a commitment to each other. Couldn't we find some way to work things out, so we could stay true to each other, after all?

And we did.

In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard says that when you are stuck in a book and can't force yourself to keep writing it, "the trouble is either of two things. Either the structure has forked, so the narrative, or the logic, has developed a hairline fracture that will shortly split it up the middle - or you are approaching a fatal mistake. What you had planned will not do. If your pursue your present course, the book will explode or collapse, and you do not know about it yet, quite." She compares the balking writer to a construction worker who intuits danger ahead and simply refuses to go out onto the construction site.

Annie tells us,when this hapens, this is what we must do: "Acknowledge, first, that you cannot do nothing." You must analyze your book's structure to find precisely where it has gone fatally wrong: "Something completely necessary is false or fatal. Once you find it, and if you can accept the finding, of course it will mean starting again."

I took Annie's advice and did some hard thinking to figure out just why I was so reluctant to move ahead on my poor abandoned book. I reworked its premise, rewrote chapter one to bring the central dramatic question of the story into much clearer focus, threw away the two chapters after that, and wrote two new ones that I happen to think are pretty darned wonderful.

Oh, book of mine, I love you again! I no longer want to cheat on you with some other imaginary project. I want to spend the remaining days of summer in your sweet company. We emerged from Annie Dillard's blunt, no-nonsense marraige counseling - this thing needs radical fixing, darlings! - and now we can go forward to savor the rest of the summer together.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic! Nothing's better than a project you can't wait to get back to.