The stupidest thing I ever did during this whole crafting-a-novel process is promise to send it to several readers for their thoughts and opinions once the second draft is completed. These people are now asking for drafts of the novel, wondering aloud when they might receive them, and I risk becoming a characature of a writer, the kind of writer who is always working on something that can never be shared.
I have been struggling with the revisions. Seriously struggling, enough to wonder if perhaps this was just the crappy first novel I had to “get out of the way” so I could write a real novel. I mean, after all, I did dump just about every issue I personally have into this novel. It’s more than that, though…by following the advice not only to write what you know I also tried to write a book I would want to read but instead of locating my own voice, I feel this manuscript is chapter after chapter of approximations – this chapter sounds a little bit like Pat Conroy, this other chapter models the way Jeffrey Lent crafts language. There is no consistent voice in the book and beyond that, the thought that keeps coming back to me, admittedly a rather ridiculous thought since this is a novel, is that this book lacks honesty. If it is going to be in any way successful, and by successful I mean something I can at least walk away from with some pride, then it needs a humbler, more honest approach, and I need to take it a little less seriously.
Another thing this little book, this titleless little book of mine, suffers from is the fact I tried to stuff WAY too much into it. It overflows, it runs on, with the most meaningless information imaginable. Don’t get me wrong, some of that information was very fun to write, but it no longer belongs.
I really thought about walking away. I could move on one of the dozen other writing projects floating around in my head, clammering for attention, and just chalk this manuscript up to a great first novel-writing experience. But that just doesn’t feel write…this book still feels like unfinished business, and it’s not just because I feel this dogged need to complete it, which i do – it’s because I still feel pulled in by the characters and by parts of the story. Anna and Ben and Mira and Brian are going to stay with me until I can finally, once and for all, put them away and say I did my best by them.
Yesterday I spent two hours reworking the first to paragraphs of the novel. I wrote and erased and wrote and rewrote and searched the first draft for the moment where the story really begins, which is NOT the first chapter I originally wrote, and at the end of the two hours I think I at least settled on the beginning. Now it’s just a matter of all the rest of it – of approaching the book as honestly and openly as I can, without aspiring to write like anyone else but me, and without trying to create a book like others I’ve read and instead make sure this is a book only I could write.