My novel is at the halfway point. It’s taken me a little under two years to get here, which is distressing when I think about it. On the other hand, I believe the rest of the first draft will move quickly. I’ve established the relationships, the conflicts, the plot – I know how the novel ends. When I work on it the writing moves much more quickly than it did in the beginning – the story moves inexorably forward. My goal, which I believe is attainable, is to have a complete first draft by the end of March. I’ll then take a few months away from it and revise. Then, repeat. The ultimate goal is to send out query letters this time next year while moving on to the next writing project. I have further writing goals this year, some shorter pieces to work on, in the space between revisions.
My brother helped me decide the direction of the second half of the novel. The main character, Anna, has come to a crossroads. She can make one of two decisions. The first decision, possibly the more moral but definitely the less interesting of the two, never felt quite right but still seemed, well, like something she would do. The second decision, the one that could have catastrophic consequences, scared me. It will just fuck up her world entirely. I talked about the two choices with S. over and over again, and he leaned every time towards the first, citing cultural and familial implications as his reasoning. Even though every reason he brought up made sense, I could never commit to it. After Christmas dinner, as my family and I sat around in the living room, D. asked me how the novel progressed. I mentioned the two different choices – the stalemate – I found myself in.
“Well, do you want to write a boring book?” He asked. “Because if you do, then you have her make the first choice. If you want to write a great book, a book where people screw up and have to figure things out, she makes the second.”
I just looked at him. “So, she has sex with guitar-playing-vagabond-brother of her ex-husband?” I asked.
“Hell yes she has sex with him! That’s interesting!”
And just like that, I knew how the rest of the novel unfolded. I’ve kept Anna locked in despair and depression for two years of her life. Arguably longer. She’s been through a divorce, the loss of her father, and an estrangement with one of her brothers. It’s the summer after 9/11 and the country is moving forwards towards war. The economy is in shambles. She’s wound up as tight as it is possible to be.
Girlfriend needs something to break her out of her world.
Right now I’m writing one of the past scenes, a scene from her fifteenth year. She’s auditioning for a play. In the next chapter, the present time, as far as the novel is concerned, she will stuff a watermelon full of vodka-soaked summer fruit for a party she is hosting, get drunk and sleep with the vagabond-guitar-playing brother of her ex-husband.
And, if it doesn’t work out? Well, there is always revision.
Other writing – my work writing is improving. At least, my boss corrects less and less and complements more. I am learning how to do this thing. Not much else in terms of writing right now – with the March deadline set, it will be all novel, all the time.