Last month, I completely rewrote a short novel which is part one of a four part cycle. After ten years of work, these four books are getting closer to being finished. Beginning this month, I'm filling in a narrative gap of one and a half year to link part one with part two.
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My most current post is about the writing life. Soccer readers, you might be interested in looking at my current entry in Footnotes on the disappointment of losing an important match to a team not playing beautiful, free-flowing, attacking football. At least we lost with style!.
Monday, 2 December 2013. Gaps, doors, and fillings. David Branson flew up from Virginia to stay with us over the holidays and as is our habit we talked about things literary. David’s got a few projects in the works including a short piece called “Diary” which concerns the working life of an American academic historian in France. He admitted that he’d been too busy with his professional duties to advance the novel he is working on. Six more chapters, he said, and I’ll have it finished. And given my rate of production that might take two more years, he added. We both laughed since he knew that I’d just completely rewritten an short novel over the month of the November. We have completely different working methods, he said, when I told him that I’d taken the original 65K word text, cut it down to 10K words and then did a complete “rewrite” producing 50K new words and using only about ten percent of the words I salvaged from the previous draft.
Writing new material has never been difficult for me. Some writers are heavy lifters. I’m a sprinter. It takes me about an hour to get the wheels and gears of my writing machine whirring, and once the mechanism is spinning, I sling down words like an assembly line worker at factory. My fingers dance over the keyboard like I’m playing a musical instrument. Uninterrupted, I can stay in that state for several hours. Last Tuesday morning, I typed for nearly four hours producing five thousand words.
But are they good words?
Some are. Some have to be reworked. Some tossed into the rubbish heap. Despite the speed with which I write, the book I’m presently working on has been “in progress” for a decade. Perhaps it didn’t need to be if I worked more efficiently, economically. But sometimes it will take years for an idea to develop.
David spent one afternoon reading my novel, Angels and Monsters. I was afraid to ask him what he thought of it. I’m intrigued by the concept, he said. That book intersects with one other that I wrote last summer, I said. And there are two more unwritten novels that are probably related, but I’ll have to write them first. It’s hard to say how a book is going to turn out until you write it. Sometimes I think that no matter what book I’m writing, I’m working on the same big novel that doesn’t have an ending. David nodded when I said that. I can see what you mean, he said. There are so many overlapping elements. What’s up with this Cube that keeps showing up? Ah, the Cube, I said. It’s arriving in 2014. That’s the year that everything changes. Now that I think about, the Cube might be a metaphor for how I see my writing career. Everything I’ve written up to the arrival of the Cube has been preparatory. When the Cube arrives, it signals the beginning of my “mature” phase, when I start writing books that other people will want to read.
I have sense that I am at the boundary of a phase transition. Or perhaps the better metaphor is that of graduation. The decade I’ve spent working on Recovering Eden has been my apprenticeship. I’ve learned through trial and error how to write a novel. Now that I have a working method and a way to go about my business of constructing worlds with words, the next book I write should be something worth publishing. That’s the hope, in any case.