more bits and pieces
I’ve been working my way through the draft of Finnegans Deciphered, adding in sensory detail where I think it is needed, tightening some unruly sentences, sharpening dialogue, and so on. I’m also addressing the errors/issues my beta reader is (constantly) finding on her read through. I’ve managed to increase the word count by nearly a thousand, which is not the point. Going from 62,000 words to 63,000 words on something the length of a novel is insignificant, at least if boosting word count is the goal. I’d need some serious structural additions to the plot to do that, and I really think the story is whole as it is. So I’m trying to be careful about the words I add to ensure they are good words, necessary words. I think they are.
Now I’m approaching the point where I have to ask myself if the novel is “finished.” When I’m not in front of my laptop, I am often making notes about this or that to add or to fix or to enhance. It’s been my method forever. With this novel those notes are coming to me less frequently, and at least one idea that I wanted to add to some character development I found was already in the text when I visited that chapter to insert it. That tells me I’m approaching that end point.
I am progressing well in the work on “Superman.” This is the short story I’m more or less “forcing” myself to write (rather than waiting for it to arrive fully formed in my head). I don’t want to understand my process too closely, but I think my problem with the story (if it can be called a problem) was that I didn’t quite know how to structure the plot. I knew where I wanted to go, but I wasn’t sure what the steps were to get there. Now that I’m “forcing” myself to proceed, I’m finding myself analyzing the various possible plot components and sorting them into a sensible arrangement. One component, a scene the narrator remembers from his childhood, which was going to go into about the middle of the story and which most clearly explains the title (realize that “Superman” is only my shorthand for the title right now), now has migrated to the very end. It’s become the epiphany moment, and I can see how it’s the culmination of all of the bits of tone and plot that I’ve been slipping into the telling throughout. I mentioned in a post here last week that I have the tone, which gave me the voice, which gave me the story. That’s allowed me the control over the telling that has meant the difference between collecting ideas for the story and actually writing it. I realize this is all vague from a perspective outside of my feverish brain, but trust me when I say that it makes sense. Okay?
Update 6-JUN-2016: What a long trip “Superman” has taken. It’s now been accepted for publication in the Pulled by Place Anthology, but more importantly, it spawned an entire story cycle that I’ve come to call Fathers and Sons. There are nineteen stories currently in the cycle and one more likely to be written. I had no idea this would happen when I began that story so many years ago, but I’m glad it did!
My story “The Respite Room,” which appears in the current issue of The Little Patuxent Review, was a piece I had struggled with for years. I realized recently that the reason for that was because I didn’t have a story to tell; I just had an accumulation of impressions and a tone. It wasn’t until late in the effort, when I put in what might be called an antagonist, that the story completed itself. I didn’t have a conflict until the antagonist appeared on the stage. The antagonist introduced what I’ve called the “predatory charity” component to the story, and that made the difference. (Predatory charity: the giving to others with strings attached.) As I look back, I can see that discovering a key flaw was what sorted all of the formless ideas and impressions I had into “Velvet Elvis” too. And in a way, sorting out the plot points has been what I needed to do all along with the swirling stew that is “Superman.” It was the fix I needed to move forward there too. Am I seeing a pattern?
So that story I submitted, “Travel Light,” (mentioned here) that I was sure was perfect for a certain publication and that I was sure would receive an instant acceptance by the editor . . . is still out there, apparently still being considered (or, more likely, still in the slush pile). I continue to check my email for the acceptance I’m certain will arrive at any moment, but so far, no news. I suspect I’m setting myself up for severe disappointment.
Update 19-FEB-2012 – The magazine turned down my submission this morning, but it was a positive email with encouraging words. So I’ll find a new potential home for it and keep trying.
After all these years of effort, I think Lucky Rabbit’s Foot has finally arrived! I’m now getting regular spam comments.
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