All right, yes, I acknowledge it’s already been slightly over a week since I last posted and that does not bode well, but here is my motto for the year, grace a Samuel Beckett:
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
Things on the work front have been quiet-ish this week (not sure whether to be alarmed about that — is it the economy? — or relieved to get some time off after my hellishly busy Christmas and New Year. Mostly the latter, though), so I’ve been tackling the Amazon ABNA novel, previously called “Fire Eyed Boy” and now provisionally titled “Hold the Time” (do try and keep up). Last Sunday I went through a printed copy and marked it up with stuff to keep, stuff to lose (the funnest part about this process was buying different coloured Post-Its), and was feeling rather disheartened about how BAD the thing was (mawkish, amateur, melodramatic, with a kind of relentless cheeriness to the voice that made me want to strangle whoever had written the thing… oh, wait a second)… and as soon as I’d finished and was digging around on my computer for the files so I could start on-screen editing, I promptly discovered that the version I’d read actually wasn’t the latest, and I had some chunks and bits in other files that are actually NOT THAT BAD, and this discovery got me excited about the thing again.
So now I’m in the middle of building a sort of Frankenstein’s monster of a novel, with bits patched together from various versions of the thing (which I fiddled with between 2005 and 2007. It’s amazing to see how my writing changed in that time), stitched together with new bits of writing. I’m aware that this is not the right way to go about things. I’d much rather start from the beginning and rewrite totally, but I don’t have time for that this year. So that’ll (have to) do, Pig. That’ll (have to) do. I’ll send it off to the contest, get summarily rejected, and keep thinking about how to make it better. I just do want to have something to enter.
On the topic of drastically reducing (which is what I’m doing, as the novel got pretty gargantuation — one version is 800 pages, fact fans, with 9,000 (OK not really) sublplots, and I’m just highlighting and deleting vast swathes of text… it’s vertiginous), I came across this yesterday, in a roundabout way because this author had posted the link to her blog on the Editors’ Association of Canada mailing list:
…In the end, it was a relief to cut 5000 words here and there and never look back.
But imagine cutting 500 PAGES of your work. I attended a summer writing workshop at Humber in 2002. I recall Nino Ricci talking about his first novel, and how it was originally 700 pages and if I remember correctly, it involved a lot of references to Jacques Derrida. When Ricci finally examined the manuscript, he found that the story was only about 200 pages and didn’t require Derrida’s approval. Ricci’s novel became Lives of the Saints and it won him a Governor General’s award.
All those words. That’s a lot of muck. It’s like diving in a Canadian Lake. You navigate with a compass because the silt is all stirred up.
You must trust the compass because it’s so easy to get turned around. I wasn’t following any compass when I wrote those extraneous, superfluous chapters. I ended up at the wrong end of the lake. And it’s hard to get out of the lake with all your heavy scuba gear.
I found this seriously heartening and intend to write to her forthwith to thank her!
I also had my critique on Monday and Tuesday for my mountain novel (my UBC novel; the one that used to be called Fraying). It went… really well. I was kind of stunned. I hadn’t expected much of it as I’m still floundering around with a new structure I took on late last year — essentially, the book now takes place over a month instead of in four years (!), and mostly on Aconcagua instead of four different cities, and a whole storyline involving a marriage and a child has been ditched, and I’m trying to get my head around the whole thing and what the thread of the novel is now. Alas, I had a wee freak-out in class about how one thing I was trying wasn’t working, and everyone was so great and positive and encouraging, and I’m excited to get back to that ASAP. If only I knew what my next scene was to be I’ll just have to write it and find out.
So there you go. That is all that goes on in the writing world of me.