Fess up Friday

Sometimes I swear to God despite the fact I have an MFA and I have been reading since I was this big I still don’t think I know how to write a novel. Or rather, perhaps I don’t understand how to construct one. I am in the messy messy middle of my novel – SMACK DAB in the middle of my novel- and it seems I’ve gone all free form, forgetting the elements that should go into scenes and chapters. I concluded Chapter 10 KNOWING it wasn’t finished but I didn’t know what else to put into it and had to move on. Okay, wait. Let me do this formally:

Novel Writing: At this point the process is just so, so weird! It turns out all the outlining and plotting I did, while beneficial in the beginning, hasn’t really helped the middle. New characters have cropped up, and situations I was certain would be pivotal months ago I know consider trite. It’s interesting to me all the different phases of writing a novel. In the beginning I was terribly serious about my plot, putting only into each chapter what I had planned to. Somewhere around chapter four I really began to find the voice of the novel and wrote a few chapters that were pure fun. Then writing the novel became very methodical for a bit, like cleaning the bathroom or loading wood. Now it’s all a mess and I’m just going crazy and my characters keep going crazy and it’s pure MESS. After this blog post I’m going to take a few minutes and try and plot out what should come in the next few chapters but I have to be honest, every time I return to outlining my brain freezes and I start wondering what I should have for lunch. As for a specific goal for the upcoming week? I guess I either hope to start chapter 11 or start the research for chapter 11, depending on what I decide in a few minutes.

Blogging: I do believe I am returning to my rhythm…it might resume normalcy before October. I do wish I had more time for blogging and reading blogs but I don’t so I might as well not even go there.

Work Writing: I’m feeling somewhat better about the work I am producing right now. I think I’m getting a handle on the job after 6 months and learning that it’s as much about management, attending meetings, being a team player, etc. as it is about my writing, unlike my last job. For instance we recently completed round one of crisis training and it was so cool.  I have to stop worrying so much about my “creative process” at work and save that for my novel.

Nonfiction: Not much happening here now but I DO have several ideas for when the first draft of my novel is complete.

Reading: I do not know what is wrong with me but I am the world’s slowest reader anymore! And I actually went two weeks without reading anything but the old New Yorkers we have around the house. Fortunately I do think Larry McMurtry’s By Sorrow’s River, the third in the BerryBender series, will help me break out of my slump. Just a great, great series.

Okay. I’m off to see if I can spend some time making sense of the second act of my novel, and then I have to pack as S. and I leave this afternoon for my mom’s 60th birthday celebration. More next week!

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7 Responses to Fess up Friday

  1. Dorothy W. says:

    Best of luck knocking the novel into shape! It’s interesting to hear how the process goes — I’m sure that messiness will result in something even better than what you had before, which I’m sure was great to begin with … it all sounds cool.

  2. Good luck with the messy middle. I admire you for getting on with it, while I take an exceptionally long “summer break” from my writing. I shall punish myself with thoughts of you during the next two weeks, and hopefully will return from our holidays with new resolve.

  3. Emily Barton says:

    Okay, so you see why I barely manage to get to the “messy middle” of any novel I write before abandoning it, right? Don’t worry about the reading: it’s summer. You’re visiting people, attending weddings, facing nothing but booked weekends…Whoever came up with the notion that summer was a laid-back time of reading was, well, lying. I’ve got something like seven books started, and I still keep turning to “People” magazine!

  4. debra says:

    Good luck on that pesky, messy middle! I know nothing about constructing a novel but I imagine as each chapter builds on the previous one, it wouldn’t be surprising for it to end up somewhere you didn’t expect!

    Enjoy your trip and seeing family!

  5. oh says:

    This was a great entry – believe it or not, also very helpful. You’ve chosen not to founder or give up. Always helps to hear another writer pushing through the work. Always worth it. We don’t always know why.

  6. Courtney says:

    dorothy – it’s funny, i always encouraged my students to engage in messy work but for some reason i shy away from it myself. I need to embrace this part of the process, i think…
    charlotte – please don’t ever think of me and think of punishment! this is just my time to catch up with you…
    emily – you are absolutely right. And I am so glad you enjoyed the sonny landreth concert…i really thought you and bob would like him!
    debra…well, the chapters should build on one another! Whether I’m accomplishing that or not, I can’t say..
    Oh, hi again! and thank you for saying what I posted was helpful – I’m glad! I hope your own writing is going well.

  7. laura says:

    Sorry, I’m commenting late on this one – I can echo almost everything you’re going through in your writing right now in my own. Mine too just became an absolute mess! Too too much going on. I think that’s okay though, for a first draft. You just have to let the writing take the story where it wants to go; keep it flexible. My ending has changed about five times since I started.

    I’m actually starting my second draft now (or something between a first and second draft), having written about 75% of the first and it was just too messy to even work with – and I was writing it all wrong.

    Learning as I go… 🙂

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