Posted tagged ‘Sleep of Reason’

regrettable, but not surpising

March 20, 2012

I did not make the cut in the latest round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I would have been surprised if I had; I was surprised when I made the first cut. Still, the experience has given me pause to think.

  • It was a contest I didn’t even know existed until a kind soul told me and encouraged me to submit. It was not a dream I have been chasing for years.
  • Being sad about not winning would be like submitting to only one agent and then being sad about the rejection. The odds were long. (And there is an ocean of agents out there.)
  • Winning would have meant that I needed to be in Seattle on the day when I am going to be in Rhode Island for a wedding.
  • Participating gave me a month of harmless buoyancy.
  • I can now include that The Sleep of Reason was a semi-finalist in this contest when I pitch it to agents.
  • There is plenty of other work I can focus my attention on.

(Does this much analysis suggest that I am not really as okay with the disappointment as I pretend?)

Out of my mind

February 28, 2011

Not an hour goes by that I don’t have some idea or impression or solution for my novel-in-hibernation, Larger than Life. (As I noted before, I’ve even had this happen in my sleep.) If I’m not near my computer, I jot my note on a piece of paper (with a mechanical pencil, of course) to transcribe it and incorporate it later.

By the time I’m at the computer, I usually have a pile of these notes waiting for attention. And if it’s not for Larger than Life it’s for Finnegans Deciphered (the one I am working on right now) or for any of a half dozen novel and story ideas I’m gestating.

I have no complaint about this. It’s how I evolve my ideas, and eventually enough of it gels into a whole.

What’s curious to me, though, is that absolutely none of this is happening with my novel, The Sleep of Reason. I’ve finished that novel, and I’m (still) shopping it around, but unlike everything else I’m working on, no fresh ideas are coming to me for it. Zilch. Zip. Nada.

Is it because that novel truly is finished? Or is it that I have closed my mind to it, believing it is finished? Or am I simply not allowing myself to give any more creative effort to it. I don’t know, and I don’t suppose I care either. The ferment that I’m currently experiencing for my other efforts had happened to me at the same pace when I was toiling through The Sleep of Reason. I was in the thick of it back in those days (not so long ago either). Which is why I’m a little surprised that it’s not still happening.

Larger gets larger

June 29, 2010

I’ve had a productive time with Larger than Life since I last made a progress report. I’ve gotten about a third of chapter four down in first draft. (I consider that if I can get a 3,000-to-5,000 word chapter in first draft written in about two weeks, I’m making excellent progress.)

I’m not planning to number the chapters (as I had with The Sleep of Reason). Rather, I’m going to give them thematic names, each using the word “light” in some way. So I have “Travel Light” and “Making Light” written, and I’m working on “Light Headed.” (Next up, “Seeing the Light.”) Even though they won’t be numbered, they will need to be read sequentially for the story to make sense. It’s that first chapter, the oddball one that is going to be so different from the rest of the novel, that requires me to be rigid about the order. (That one will probably be titled “Lighter than Air.”) Plus, my protagonist makes progress through the tale, so it’s important to maintain a sequence.

I know many modern (and not-so-modern) novels barely show chapter breaks, much less use numbers or even titles. I’ll confess that when I read most Iris Murdoch novels, I can never tell why a break might be a mere two lines, half a page, or a whole page. Does she have some thematic reason for this that I don’t get? One novel I read in graduate school, Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar, had instructions for how to “hopscotch” through the many chapters seemingly randomly, including the last ninety-nine, which are said to be “expendable.”) So maybe I’m being old fashioned using conventional chapters.

Anyway, I’m satisfied with my progress, and I’m delighted that several times every day I get little insights about this or that in the plot or about the characters that make it better. I just had a big revelation about the theme that has helped me refine the plot and delineate the growth of the character better. So Larger is getting larger.

I could come to like Mondays

May 18, 2010

My loathing for Mondays is ingrained and longstanding. It begins on Sunday afternoons and looms through all of Monday. Its source is mundane and likely obvious: on Mondays I must return to working for the man, not having contrived a way during the weekend to achieve financial independence.

Yet if the pattern of the last two Mondays keeps up, I may grow to like them.

Last Monday a literary agent asked for the full novel of The Sleep of Reason. And yesterday, a different agent asked for a partial: the first three chapters. What will next Monday bring?

Coincidentally, both agents responded the very next day after I had sent in a query on Sunday. Two instances do not a pattern make, but I’ll take whatever encouragement I can from it.

Of course it’s much too early to get hopeful. Still . . .

Turning a corner on the rewrite

February 17, 2010

I feel as though I’ve turned some important corner in the rewrite of my WIP. There’s still plenty to do, including at least one more complete read through with a red pen, but the work feels different now. I feel that I have some new mastery over the story and the story telling.

I worked slowly and carefully through the very last chapter yesterday, pruning the dead wood and looking for ways to strengthen the images as well as to hide the revelations (until the last couple of paragraphs). It all felt very right. For the most part the needed fixes stood out and the solutions came. (I did struggle with some of it.)

My reader has been providing valuable feedback as well. Not only has she been spotting some internal inconsistencies — things I would have completely missed no matter how many times I re-read the story — but she is bringing her art history background to her analysis. (I’ve mentioned at least once before the western painting and sculpture play a significant part in the story. Not being an expert myself, I am glad I can count on my reader to bring the expertise.)

An unexpected benefit of my reader’s input is that I’m having a cross fertilization of ideas. If this is so, then that is so as well. And if this situation exists, then that situation would make sense to follow from it. I’m making all kinds of connections, things that are absolutely true to the plot and characters and that illustrate or complement key points and developments in the story. I’m more than a little embarrassed that I hadn’t seen these things before now. But better now than never (or after it’s too late to make the changes).

So as I said, I’m wading into it again with a feeling of greater control and insight. There’s plenty of work to be done, but I feel more equipped than ever to do it.

Stumbling along

December 22, 2009

Really and truly, my life is boring. All of my offspring are gathered in town for the holidays, and we’ve been visiting, but mostly I’ve just been stumbling along through the rewrite of my novel-in-progress, The Sleep of Reason. (If you’ve read this humble blog any length of time, you’ll know that I’m skeptical of strict grammar application, but I wonder about that last bit of formatting. I set the title of the novel in italics; is that presumptuous given that it is only a manuscript and not actually a published novel? And technically, I don’t suppose that is even a grammar question. Would it be a usage question?)

Anyway, yesterday I passed the three-quarters mark in the novel rewrite. I have fifteen of twenty chapters now in third-person narration. The pace of the story has quickened, and so much of the seed planting and foreshadowing I had done in the earlier chapters is beginning to come into play. I had really hoped to have the whole business in a rough third-person narration by the end of the calendar year, but I see that isn’t going to happen. Do not worry, gentle reader. I’ll cope somehow.

I submitted another short story to a magazine the other day (thank you, Duotrope’s Digest!). I continue to make copious notes for the many, many story ideas that knock about in my brain. I keep reading works that are well done, informative, or challenging (sometimes all three at once). I persevere in my attempts to refine the functionality of this blog. And between all of that I still carry myself to the office so I can continue to pay the bills.

Regardless of my woes, I hope you enjoy the holidays, whatever your tradition and however you choose to celebrate them.

Half way there (finally)

December 15, 2009

I’ve survived through half of the rewrite of my work in progress from first person narration to third person. It’s tedious work, but it’s getting easier.

My protagonist is a fool, but he does not know this. He’s well educated and highly confident of himself, and part of his characterization included having him spout erudite and florid words in his (first person) narration. That was fine when he was telling the story since I intended it to show a wall of bluster and arrogance that kept him deceived from what was happening all around him.

Switching to third person narration has meant that I must tone down this vocabulary in some cases. In many cases. I’ve chosen to have my new narrator be articulate, and even a little bemused, in the story telling, but much of the way the protagonist had told the story is not the way the new narrator tells the story. My new narrator is not a fool, and he doesn’t have any self delusions, so he doesn’t need a wall of words. That means a few challenges as I force myself to “hear” some passages in this new voice, which is difficult because I have the old voice right there on the screen before me. Ah, such are the troubles in my life.

I’ll confess that I had grown so weary of the rewrite that I began looking for ways to make the first person narration work with the “story behind the story” that I need to express. It just cannot be done in the first person — the narrator is too close to his tale to be able to show what’s really happening — but, boy, I sure tried to find a way rather than submit to continuing the long slog through the rest of the novel.

I’m past that now. Since I’m beyond the halfway point, the rewrite is all downhill, right? Actually, it’s beginning to pick up in terms of plot fulfillment, so I think the work will be more enjoyable. I press on.

Plugging along

November 16, 2009

I wish I had something interesting or astonishing to report here about my life in writing. The fact is, I’m in the long grind of rewriting. As I’ve said here countless times (so why say it again, right?), I am now rewriting my novel with a third person narrator rather than the first person narrator I had used in the first drafts. This is coming along better than I feared it would, but at this stage it’s all very workmanlike writing. I’ll need to go through it again to enhance the voice of the narrator, and I’ll comprehend what that voice should be like better after I’ve been all the way through the novel.

I can sit down to an hour or so of uninterrupted time and finish the rewrite of an entire chapter. It’s tedious because I am re-keying every single word (and Chapter 1 was nearly 9,000 words), but I should not complain about the pace. To write a single chapter during the frenzy of the first draft (or the vomit draft as I’ve heard it called) required several weeks of steady work, and most of the chapters were not nearly 9,000 words. So a chapter in an hour, even a tedious hour, it lightning fast. I just wish I could find more of those uninterrupted hours. Even so, I expect to have the final final draft ready for submission well before the second anniversary of my commencement on the novel, which is far ahead of the goal I had set myself. (It’s funny that I had only embarked on this work — to be no more than a novella I thought at the time — merely to get it out of my head so I could work on other things.)

It’s also fun because I can see all of the foreshadowing and seeds of character development that I put in these early chapters. I know what’s coming, so I see how I have prepared the reader for what’s coming. But it’s all still nicely subtle. I’d like to think that my novel will bear careful reading.

So I keep at it. Writing is rewriting, they say.

Chapter One is completed

November 10, 2009

Here I go again, giving a chapter-by-chapter account of my progress through yet another rewrite of my novel, The Sleep of Reason. As I said in my last post, I haven’t faced any severe difficulty in transitioning my text from first person to third person, but I’m sure it’s raw and clumsy. I’ll need to go through it again to polish it. Again. What a tedious word that has become!

I have two laptops before me. One has the text of the earlier draft on it. I type into the other laptop. You’d think that would be easy, but I’m making huge numbers of typing errors, especially missing the letter “a” when I type. I think it has something to do with having my eyes elsewhere than the screen on which my words appear.

The new chapter weighs in at 8,936 words. The first-person draft was 8,825, and the first draft of it was an anemic 8,768 words. The beast is growing more woolly. What’s more, somewhere in the middle of those words I realized that I am going to retype every single word, every single character. The last draft was more than 109,000 words. Every bit of it will be typed once again by my crabbed and aching paws. Oh, pity me!

Nonetheless, I still feel as strongly as ever about the worthiness of this novel.

Rewriting recommences

September 12, 2009

The rewriting work on The Sleep of Reason is back in gear again. In recent days I’ve worked my way through three more chapters, bringing myself to about the midpoint of the whole novel. I’m still finding plot points that need addressing, or rather, I’m still leaving plot points that need addressing. There is a particular revelation in Chapter 8, for example, that may be better made in a later chapter, but I haven’t gotten to that chapter in my rewrite yet to judge.

I am making small notes of what transpires in each chapter so that I can find these unresolved plot points easily when the time comes. I really should have done this on the first go through, as I was writing the chapters originally, but I was in the fever of creativity at the time, or something like that.

I’m also tracking the passage of time in each chapter so that I can go back and impose some seasonal descriptions to them. As I noted in an earlier post, I know the month of the year when the story is to end, so with my time markers for each chapter, it will be easy to know at what time of the year they occur.

One thing I’m curious about is the final world count of the whole thing. I hadn’t compiled that when I finished the first draft, and those chapter files are a bit ragged for going back to get a reliable number. So I’m tabulating as I make my way through the rewrite, considering whatever it comes to, to be the more valid count. I expect it to come in somewhere around 100,000 words.