Okay, to backtrack just a bit: I have started the novel. If by started you mean that I’ve got a full outline. Yup. Got that (though I admit I’m not much of an outliner). And I have sat down and written a number of starting scenes…which I’ve promptly discarded. I’ve done the whole sit-in-a-coffeehouse-and-just-do-it sessions, which didn’t do it for me.
Part of the problem is a question of where to start. I’ve written funny material with my character arriving at the train station, but no, too early in the story. So CUT. Then poignant material the moment my character arrives on scene, but no, this feel like introducing back story. So CUT. Then a crazy night out loaded with humiliation, but there’s no real reason for the reader to be there either, so CUT CUT CUT!
And that, dear readers, is how it has been going all this past month. The month of August. My Write the Novel Month. Blah. I know I should do what I tell my writing students to do: just write. DON’T REVISE. DON’T SELF-EDIT. The thing is, I don’t feel like I’m self-editing. I feel like I’m just not latching onto the characters and voices in a way that makes me feel like the words are real and I’m in the moment. That’s how I write. That’s my own style. I hear the character’s voice, and know that dramatic opening scene, and I just go for it.
Not this time…
If I think of this past month in terms of words on the page, I can surely panic. But no. Because I’m not on a deadline (I’ve written a novel on deadline before…that was an experience!), I can think of this as a process. Doesn’t that sound better than, say, a mess, or a failure? A process. And I do think this is accurate. As I’ve rejected scene after scene, I have been thinking about where I would start things. How. Why.
And If I did panic, would I be daydreaming of the scenes I needed to write? Would I let myself do other stuff and put this aside without feeling like I was failing? You know the answer to that one, right?
So, as I watch August disappear, I have to take a deep breath, and trust my writing process. As I’ve NOT written, what I HAVE done is think about the characters more, and their voices. I’ve started to hear in my head dialogue, and witness scenes that definitely should be written. I’ve picked out better names, more interesting story threads.
So sometimes, not writing is a vital part of writing.
I’ve tried to relax, even as these notions have all piled up in my brain but I’ve become too busy with traveling around and settling one child at Law School, which means the words are bubbling, but I’m still NOT WRITING. But life is a process, too. We go through phases in our lives. There was the time my kids were babies and I had to accept that there were months and even years when I wasn’t going to get the intense writing time I so needed.
Right now I’m seeing that maybe September is a better writing month for me after all. My husband has started back teaching at the University. My other daughter will soon be back at school. And my poodle is pretty quiet when she isn’t yapping at the mailman. The house, which was all summer filled with people and “what’s to eat” inquiries and piles of laundry and stacks of dirty dishes, will be under control and calm. A writing space, dare I say?
So sometimes, not writing is about waiting for your life and your head to get into a better place.
And sometimes not starting your novel is the best way to start it after all. Hm. We’ll see about that one. Stay tuned…