Thursday, March 17, 2005

Still Plugging Along

I've written about 20,000 words of my second novel. Since the novel is an expansion of a short story written at Clarion, parts of the framework were already in place. I read the short story several times, made some notes on what I thought were the major points, then wrote a rough outline. Then I started.

The last and only other time I wrote a novel, my first draft was just a big 300 page freewrite: no outline, no notes. Just start writing and find out what happens as you go along.

Although there are many things I love about freewriting, this time I felt I needed some type of outline. The danger is in following your outline so closely that you begin to manipulate your story. The outline is very skeletal and I frequently depart from it, but I still think it gives me a loose but helpful framework. Whatever the case, I feel much better about this novel than the first one. Plus I'm really taking my time on this one: 1,000 words a day. That's not much, but I wanted to also spend time on some short stories. Maybe even some poetry.

I've got five stories out right now. I started expanding a flash fiction piece last night, "Lady in Broken Satin" about Billie Holiday.

Very disappointed in Alias last night. Think I'll stick to PTI.

Now Playing = Wildflowers – Judy Collins

Friday, March 04, 2005

Novel Fever

Three years ago I started and finished my first novel. I wrote a first draft, set it aside for a few months and started a second draft. I finished the second draft, let my writers group read it, and set it aside before going to Clarion.

When I got back from Clarion I was really focused (and still am) on writing short stories, so I kept the novel in a drawer. A few months after Clarion, I read the novel again.

Boy, was it bad. And it still is. (They don't get better sitting in the drawer. I know some of us would like to think they do, but they don't. Take my word for it.)

I think the initial idea I had for it was good. Not very original, but still good: In 1880, two university students (both male, of course; it's 1880.) accidentally stumble into an apartment in downtown Baltimore. (I know - how do you accidentally stumble into an apartment? That's just one of the things that needs work!) Inside the apartment they find an entire room full of objects and devices they have no way of explaining. That's how the novel begins.

I still think it's a good idea and believe the novel contains some good scenes, but overall, it's a bad novel. I didn't know how to put it together, didn't know how to execute it. (Hey, maybe execution's a pretty good idea!) It's a first novel. It was a learning experience and one I wouldn't trade for anything.

Now I'm starting another one.

I hadn't planned on doing it. I'd written a short story at Clarion and did a revision of it six months later. I sent it to P.O.E. and got some good critiques on what worked and what didn't. And I came to the point that probably all writers come to at one time or another when working on stories: There's just too much story here for a short story, or novelette, or even a novella. This sucker's got to be a novel.

But I'm not in a hurry. My word count goals are pretty small – I want to write at least 1,000 words a day. That's not much, but I still want to work on short stories too. So I'm 6,000 words into the novel and feel pretty good about it. But ask me again in three or four months.

Writing the first novel was like trying to walk through the jungle. I had no clue at all, I just started walking. It's a little different now. There's a tiny, winding, dusty trail cut through the jungle now. I can see up ahead that the path branches off in several different directions. Which one's right? We'll see. But the journey is the fun part.

I hope I feel this way four months from now.

Happy writing, everyone.

Now Playing = A Night in Tunisia – Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers