Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tossing and Turning

That sound again. Pages hitting the floor. Pages being thrown away, junked, rejected--by me.

How many hundreds of pages have I thrown away in the past ten years? Many. Is this madness, or have all these rejections had a purpose?

Much of the rejection has come of a restlessness with old ways of doing things. Writing and writing and writing in an effort to see a new way of going about it organic to me. There are lost of new ways out there to copy; but what feels authentic? And a new way that I also like. 

Another cause of the tossing has been the effort to write a novel, a form that doesn't come naturally to me. I wrote one before, which should be a reassurance. But it isn't. I wrote one right when I was supposed to years ago that was to be my second novel, but a similar story--yet completely different--appeared first, so mine went back in the drawer. Then what? Lots of ideas that didn't compel me enough to stick with for the years it takes. A few ideas I probably should have pursued, but I was intimidated by the research involved. Finally, a set of characters I like and plan to stick with for a while, but I made some mistakes in terms of writing long sections that didn't add up to much, and so on. All along I wrote essays, stories, and pages here and there of a memoir. The novel contract though--comes first.

This summer I had a month to really push hard, and I did. A certain number of words a day, no matter what. This has always been a method that works for me, even if everything I write under that self-imposed duress gets tossed. It makes me start to think better, and to see what I really want.

What do I want? To be in the presence of a feeling, and to communicate that feeling. I think I have said that before. I believe all books start in a feeling, a single feeling, and then comes the work of figuring out the characters, the form, the plot, and so on, that hold a place for that feeling--forever, really. A lot of writing and tossing is a way to return to the original feeling--or, if I miss the feeling and consider a character or a story instead, to excavate for the feeling that gave rise to that other apparition.


  1. I wonder if it's possible to hold onto that feeling for the duration of writing a novel, like trying to keep the high of first love going through the years of marriage. It is miraculous when that feeling is transmitted in pure form into a sentence or a scene in the book and the reader seems able to capture it whole. But I think that is like happiness: momentary.

  2. I agree--the transmission to the reader may not be sustained, for reasons beyond the writer's control. But the writer wants and needs to sustain it. That's the fun!
    I'm not sure if the high of infatuation and happiness equate to love, but I do think pursuing the feeling that inhabits every sentence of a book is like love. Love is exacting.

  3. And that sums up one of the joys of reading novellas for me - that intense one-directional arrow flight of emotion. But for a longer book maybe you need some pages off - to do the plot-washing up or to have the neighbours round?
    To keep the feeling inside though, I get that as a writer. And yes you have to push past it sometimes.

  4. I am doing a presentation on you as an author in my English 2520 class. I have been researching your work, (LOVE LOVE LOVE In The Gloaming), and am headed to the library tomorrow to look for more. I am a 49 year old student, majoring in English...wishing I had the courage to major in creative writing. I have been searching for information for my presentation this afternoon and had a thought: What would YOU want me to say about you in 400 seconds????? It's an interesting thought, you have to admit. 400 seconds isn't much time in which to compile a person's life. :-)