First of all, thank you all so much for the comments left on my previous post. I truly intended to write to each and every one of you and I think this is the first time I’ve missed responding to your comments, but between returning from Boston and numerous home-purchasing chores I decided instead to move forward with the Fess Up Friday challenge instead, onwards and upwards being my motto these days. So, the challenge is to post one paragraph from your current work in progress you feel particularly happy with, and one you aren’t pleased with, and then to discuss the writing process, to the best of your recollection, behind each. I’ll run this challenge for the next several days and next Thursday post those who participated on this blog, so if you participate please email me or leave a note here in the comments and I will make sure you are included in Thursday’s publication. This is the first of what I hope to be a series of challenges for those of us writing. Oh, no context necessary – this is meant to inspire a discussion about the PROCESS, not the WORK.
One paragraph which pleases me:
We stopped playing at that point. The thunder was coming closer. We gathered together and stared at the sky, mesmerized by the sight of black, heavy clouds. My mom held Patrick close to her body, and my dad draped a protective arm around me while the boys, with the exception of Joel, began placing bets on when the rain would start. We stood, in the middle of that makeshift baseball field, like some magnetic force kept us there, when all reasonable people would have headed for shelter. We stood there until the sky broke open and the rain rushed forth – and then we screamed like banshees. Michael, Brian, Ben, Joel and Doug ripped off their sweat-stained t-shirts and ran around the bases, jumping up and down, lifting their arms to the rain. Pepper grabbed my hands and swung me around in circles while my mom balanced Patrick in one arm and her drink in the other. She lifted her glass to the sky, and Pepper continued to hold me by one hand and lifted hers as well, and my dad and Jake did the same, and we danced in the rain, letting in soak us through, replenishing all we’d lost over the last several weeks. At one point, Ben grabbed my free hand and quickly we all formed a circle and began spinning around, laughing – laughing – laughing – practically pagan with worship. Later, after everybody dried off, our families sat together on the covered porch of our cabin and watched the storm move across the sky. Joel sat on one side of me, humming some incomprehensible tune, which he explained would be a song about the storm, and Ben sat on the other, his arm swung casually around me, and I felt different, like I was no longer the girl I once was, but not yet sure who I would turn out to be.
One (okay, two, because they go together) paragraphs I find highly unsatisfactory:
I could feel the tug, those first few rainy July days, the whispers skirting across my mind before shaking my head, pulling myself away from what my dad coined the murmurs from the silent room, because that is how he thought of his post traumatic stress disorder, like a hundred thousand murmurs slipping beneath the door of a room you know is supposed to be empty and you can’t help yourself, even though you’ve been told not to open the door, even though you logically know nothing is behind the door that you want to tangle with, you can’t help yourself, you go to the door and you open it and then there you are, keeping company with a whole bunch of craziness no one can see but you.
We all fall. This much I know. Some fall towards crutches like alcohol and cigarettes, others towards organized religion, still others into the abyss of what ifs. My falling always felt a continuous news reel spinning wildly out of control in my head, and was always preceded by the flying night terrors I had. Every time I found myself on the other side of the attacks, I swore they wouldn’t happen again, that next time I would recognize the signs or symptoms and fight them off, but eleven years after the first attack, even in the supposed sanctity of my father’s cabin, I found myself fighting off the vicious heart pounding, the cold sweats and the terribly vicious mind games I was capable of playing with myself.
First of all, I have no clue why the font changed but whatever, I am a very busy woman and don’t have time to worry my pretty little head about wordpress’ formatting issues. A-hem. So, the first paragraph. This graph is from Chapter Four of my novel, and to date it remains the chapter I had both the most fun writing and felt the saddest during. Thinking about it, I doubt there was even what could be called a process for this chapter…I felt swept up in. FINALLY Anna meets Ben for the first time. FINALLY the whole story can start moving along (which does not bode well for my first three, does it?) I knew, graph by graph, line by line, what needed to happen, knew it instinctively, knew I was finally introducing the characters who would form the rest of the novel. And while my novel is autobiographical in terms of PLACE, it isn’t overly so in terms of EXPERIENCE, but the old adage “write what you know” does seem to hold true, and while I didn’t experience the above scene with my characters (obviously) I did experience the breaking of a drought after a long, dry summer and so writing about it came easily. Now that I think about it, the entire first act of my novel came to me fairly easily and it is now, in the messy messy middle act, that I find myself floundering. So this paragraph pleases me because I finally set up the relationship between Anna and Ben, and I writing with both confidence and knowledge.
As for the graphs I’m not particularly happy with? They were fairly recently written and I haven’t been able to “be” in my novel every day, or really, regularly at all. What’s more, I’m trying to say in several sentences which ideally should be said in only one or two, and I know this is caused by my lack of knowledge on panic attacks and post traumatic stress disorder. I am making assumptions based on my limited personal experience with anxiety and my even more limited knowledge of its hereditary causes. The truth is I NEED Anna to experience these feelings but I’m not sure in the context of the story whether they are realistic or not. I am also a very linear person and cannot skip to the parts of the novel I know for sure, and instead force myself through the vaguaries and gray areas relentlessly, and finding myself quite dissatisfied while doing so.
This weekend I am going to read my novel from beginning to where it stands now, without revising a thing, which will be enormously difficult, and proceed. I’m over the half-way point – it’s time to do this thing.