Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mad Scientist's Son #7

I’m still playing around with the heart metaphor. Heart can be used in another way, as in center. And maybe that’s part of my struggle right now as I end this second draft of the novel and go to the third.

I imagine different hearts of the novel, different centers, and I try to organically get to one, but I don’t think I have yet. I mean I have several ideas about what might be at the heart of this novel, but they’re not entirely clear to me.

This could be a novel about someone who doesn’t fit into his world and is trying to fit in-- but it isn’t that novel now. It needs a lot of change to get there, change that must begin in the beginning. A novel has to be connected, has to have a current, from the start. And that means I’d be changing a lot in this next draft to make that identity problem THE HEART of the novel though could be this: he wants to fit but he doesn't.

Structure is always a struggle for me. If a novel becomes fragmented by an unclear center then it’s hard for it to keep that narrative momentum it needs. A novel needs to advance—characters have to change and narrative deepen-- or the reader gets bored.

Or so I think today.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


There’s a point in every novel where it becomes all wobbly at the knees. It seems about to take a big tumble. You doubt everything. That’s now. I’m struggling because I’m uncertain it holds together and some of the problems I’ve already talked about seem Mt. Everest in size.

I have thoughts of starting a new book. Wouldn’t that be fun? A new book will give me some distance, some perspective. Maybe if I just set this one aside and move on to a new story then I’ll have the new story going and I can come back and climb Mt. Everest. In fact it won’t even be Mt. Everest anymore maybe. It will be Mt. Nothing Too Hard To Get Up and Over.

But, of course, that’s not true. And, also, even if I did write a new manuscript I’d still come to the same kind of problems eventually. I’d be right back here looking at Mt. Everest.

I do, at least, know that I can only finish a novel by finishing a novel. I have to push on in my imperfect, stumbling, bumbling way. Whatever happens with this novel, I have to see it through.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

More Mad Scientist's Son


I’ve already expressed my diagnosis for this manuscript. Needs more heart. I think it feels thin. Sometimes you get mostly through a draft and you have the sneaking suspicion that something is wrong. You aren’t sure what. You have to listen to that obnoxious and unwanted voice though.

I need to push through to the end even though my inclination is to go back to the beginning. But I’ll have a nice, short, beginning to end draft if I push through. Then I can go back and do heart surgery. I’m sure it will need lots of other work, too. This whole making something out of nothing, breathing life into characters, isn’t easy.


There’s a big difference between wanting to fit in and wanting to know why you don’t fit in. Frank wants to know why he doesn’t fit in. So in a sense he wants to know the truth of his situation. This has to be clearer from the start. It has to be in there from the start. Part of this must be that he feels something beyond him, something withheld.

So I need all of this PRESSURE in his situation. There is the echo of life in it if it’s done right. There is something going on that is withheld and beyond us all. Why are we here—and then there’s that bitter and inescapable truth: no one gets out of here alive.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mad Scientists Son #3-rule breaking

Today I pushed ahead into a section that may or may not work. I’m adding a new POV in the last third of my novel. You aren’t supposed to do that. I can remember an instructor I worked with at Vermont College telling me that it was a bad idea when I did it in a manuscript I wrote over ten years ago. She was right then. The ghost of her voice comes back to me now.
“Don’t do it. Bad idea,” her ghost voice says.
“But it feels like it might be a good one.”
“Same thing Napoleon probably said right before he invaded Russia and we know how that turned out.”

She’s right. I know it goes against a very sensible fiction writing rule. Do not bring a narrator in so late. The reader doesn’t have time to warm to them. It’s jarring also to have the sudden switch. It may undermine established rhythms you’ve worked for.

There are many good reasons not to do what I seem to be doing anyway.

Sometimes you just have to go with what feels right though. However, I am aware that I might be fooling myself so I’m going to keep this POV for now, but I’m going to be suspicious of it. In later drafts when I’m thinking about structure and I’m forcing myself to get some distance from the work, I’ll try to be sure this actually fits and works. If not, I will be merciless. It will be gone faster than a bad piece of fruit.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Mad Scientist's Son#2-TWPTWD

There are some cool ideas in this novel.

I’m not sure these ideas in my novel work, but there are some interesting ones. I’m trying to get one figured out right now because it’s a turning point in the manuscript. I thought about it last night, which was not a good idea. You want to toss and turn, just go to bed thinking about your novel.

“You’re like a fish flopping out of water,” my wife said.

I could say I am a fish flopping out of water BUT I’m not that ridiculous. Instead I grunt something about being sorry and go back to thinking and flopping.

It could be worse. I could be out driving. It’s always kind of a small miracle when I’m thinking some writer problem through and driving and I realize I’m at my destination. How did I get there? No clue. Really, the cops should be looking out for writers as much as drunk drivers.

I can hear the cop now. I get pulled over. “Are you a writer, Sir?”
Me, hesitantly, “Yes.”
“Thought so. You have the look. I’ll need to see your license and registration.”
“Was I doing something wrong?”
“I think you know you were.”
“Not really.”
“You haven’t been thinking your writer thoughts?”
He says “writer thoughts” with an uncalled for distain.
“Maybe a few.”
“More than a few I’d say. And then you thought you’d take a little drive?”
“I was just thinking. I can still drive when I think about writing.”
“They all say that. Should have taken a taxi.”
“Sorry is not good enough. Step out of the vehicle, Sir.”
“You’re taking me in?”
“This is going to cost you a lot more than a taxi. I’m going to have to charge you with TWPTWD, Thinking Writing Problem Through While Driving.”

“QUIT FLOPPING,” my wife said.