Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Going to nothing, going to something

Today I am embracing my heritage, birthright even, of blaming the weather. I might have updated this days ago, but the most ready excuse is that I was sick (under the weather, see what I did there?). It was an odd experience, being legitimately ill, feeling too bad to move or eat or think. I haven't been like that in years. I feel much better now, but there is the persistent cough, and the less regular coughing up of things, all of which makes me think of lungers in the old west. I feel like I should be walking with a limp and sporting a scowl. Then there's the pesky blizzard. Right this second, I'm being informed via machine that I'll be out of work again tomorrow. Crazy start to the year, I think qualifies.

But I have been writing. Chapter 23 was drafted today. I was telling a friend about how excited I was about the process, and I even went so far as to describe the different stages, as I know them, of novel writing. The first part is awful. There's no momentum except for the energy whatever planning or outlining one has done up to that point, and no solidity, either. Everything is a buzzing idea and one is never sure about which is more important, what needs to be told and what needs to be left out, and when. And if you've ever planned something out, then tried to initiate that plan, you know of what I mean. The second part is less awful, but still has its negatives. While the story has roots (hopefully), which is to say one has a much better idea of what's going on, why, and where it's all going (again, hopefully), there's no end in sight. No tunnels, no bends, just a huge, flat area. Turning back becomes as likely as pushing forward. And then there's the final phase (of drafting, at least). The end is not only in sight, it's downhill from one's current position. One can see everything that one needs to do to reach it and there are few pitfalls except for the urge to adjust one's pace. It's only right there after all. What makes the last part challenging is the need for restraint. After all, picking along carefully, considering each individual step is what got one that close. Rushing now would only make it all less worthwhile. And that's where I am now.

But I've also given recent thought to where I'm going and not just where I am. A while back I talked with a friend about her novel, specifically about where she'd submit it once it was in a place she was happy about. As I've said, I have two works contracted but with small presses, the sort of places the average person has never heard of, or even a well read person. My friend told me she would be submitting to the larger houses first, let them reject her, then work her way down. Or, work her way into obscurity (yeah, because that sounds better). I did a good bit of writing last year, but all of it was continuances of those contracted novels, so it would be impossible to do anything with those until their predecessors are circulated. But with this novel I'm almost done with, that is not the case. It's new, unattached. And for a while now I've had the goal to do as my friend one day might, and start at the top. The reservation I had before about how long it took (4-6 months wait time, no simultaneous submissions, which means I can do nothing else with it for those months), but now that's of little concern. I've done a lot of writing in preparation for this attempt, and I feel very good about my chances.

I think I'll go for a walk. It'll be nice not to have to visualize how far I've come. I'll be able to look behind me and see my foot steps preserved, for however long, in a packed field of white.

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