I’ve been struggling with my writing since November, when I began revising my novel. For various and multi-faceted reasons, revising this first novel of mine has proven incredibly difficult. I think the biggest reason for this is because it’s so much a first novel – upon rereading and attempting to rewrite I realize how fraught with first-time novel-writing it is – it is overly written, the stakes aren’t high enough, and it’s like I took elements of every novel I’ve ever loved and thrown them into it. I actually wouldn’t beat myself up for walking away from it – I mean, isn’t the standard writing advice to write your first novel, and then write your next one, and your next? But I am drawn to certain aspects of the book – I am drawn to the characters Anna and Ben, and their story – and I’m not ready to give them or the story up, yet. No matter how many times I try to reinvent the plot to make it more workable and realistic, though, I fail, and while I deeply admire all my colleagues able to revise novels as quickly as they do, I don’t think I have any choice but to step back and meditate on this problem of plot, for a while. I am close to my “aha” moment – that much, I can feel – but forcing it has been an exercise in frustration.
I thought stepping back meant I would be forsaking writing altogether, for awhile, but that’s just stupid. I WANT to write – any day I go without at least an hour or two at the keyboard makes me antsy – so I took some time this week to outline a series of projects I want to work on. (Please forgive the poor writing and all-over-the-mapness of this post – I am in a bit of a hurry today)
Project One –
* revise the novel in some fashion, as I am no ready to give up on it yet. This will happen when it happens.
Project Two –
* review MFA manuscript in its entirety. See if there are any essays or, at the very least, themes, to revise and submit.
Project Three –
* Begin new novel ideas as they come to you. Right now I have at least three other novel ideas I want to begin. At this point there is no harm in exploring these ideas via some free-writing. One is a mystery, one is a family saga, one will be set in the 1980’s at the height of the AIDS crisis in America…
Project Four –
* Go through blog post by post, identify possible essay ideas, revise and expand upon them. Can you believe I’ve been blogging for five years? I certainly can’t – S. is the one who pointed this fact out to me recently. This week I gave a reading with two fellow alumni at a student-run reading series – I wasn’t sure what to read since it was a nonfiction reading, and S. is the one who pointed out while my structured writing time is spent writing fiction, this blog was full of nonfiction. He helped me select three pieces united by one theme and with some rewriting and new graphs, I didn’t totally suck. In fact, S. thinks I have a lot of essays waiting to be written in this blog, which I hadn’t thought about. So I’m going to go through the last five years of blog posts and see if I can identify some themes and/or posts that deserve a more formal treatment.
* Continue to involve yourself in the writing community. I gave a reading this week – next week I am going to a reading and a party for one of the best lit magazines in the world. I am helping sort through manuscripts for said lit magazine with the editor, as well. I’ve been away from the writing community for so long I had forgotten what a beautiful and motivating community it is – I need to continue to invest in this particular community – I lost it once and I am so, so lucky to have it back!
Quite loosely, this is my plan: New writing when I set aside morning time to write – that is the space to play around with new scenes, new stories, new ideas – and revising pieces when I set aside time in the evening to write. I am hoping this plan proves to be as dynamic and motivating as it feels right now, and I also hope I manage to finally complete some projects – big and small – and recommit to the submission process as well. Stay tuned!