The Death of a Novel

I’m stuck in my own writing, one could call it “blocked” if one wanted. I don’t know that I would – I’m getting words down on paper. They aren’t in the right order, and that’s makes it feel less productive. I’m working on a short story and the voice just isn’t coming. There’s something too wordy, too expositive (as in full of exposition; did I just make up a word? Spellcheck thinks so) about it and it doesn’t “feel” right yet. Most times when writer’s write about writing (wright, right, rite, rīt… sorry, just got one a rīt roll) and writer’s block they talk about writer’s block keeping them from starting or continuing a piece. That’s not where I think I am.
I feel like I’m suffering not from a problem starting, but from a problem of letting go. I’ve just finished with the first draft of a novel, and it was a novel I’d worked on for quite a while. It was over a two-year period, with a six month break in the middle, that I worked on this book and now the first draft is done. I’m not really happy about it. First, I have to type it. Typing is my nemesis. Publishers don’t accept handwritten manuscripts for very good reason (they are impossible to read, duh), but I can dream of sending them the journal instead of a typed copy, can’t I? I can. And, do. The second reason I’m not happy about the finished draft is that I miss it. It was a voice I was comfortable in and with, it was a narrator I truly liked (and, I pray, that readers, editors, my agent, etc. will like too) and a story I found compelling and rewarding. In short, I have the “I don’t want this to end” experience that I normally only get when reading a book. I’ve never had this feeling about something I’ve written and its strange and difficult to deal with.
Of course, as I said, I do need to type it, and then revise, then reread and revise, and sit, and revise, and reread and rest again, and revise. But all of that is like curtains and wallpaper and paint are to a house. What I miss is building the house, and the house is built, and even though I may change the paint, and maybe tear down the garage and put in a new master bathroom, even if I do some serious remodeling, the house is there. It’s up. It’s a house and reworking it won’t make it an unhouse to be rebuilt.
So, I miss the process, and the exploration of that work and that narrator and the people he knew and interacted with in the story. I miss the settings, and the surprises in the plot and knowing what a character might do in a given situation, even if that situation will never be written, simply because I knew the character so well. I miss all that and don’t want to let go.
In short, I’m in a sort of mourning for my just finished first draft and no amount of revision will fully take me back into the same excitement of writing that first draft. That excitement has to come from the next one, or the one after that, and a little piece of me is scared I might not find it. Logically I know I will. But still, it’s hard to over-ride emotion.
I may wear black while typing the novel. Or, maybe just a black arm-band.

Library of America to release second PKD set.

I’m on a PKD roll.
Galleycat has news that the Library of America will be releasing a second set of Philip K. Dick novels*, and he speculates as to which ones they will be. He goes with A Maze of Death; Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, A Scanner Darkly; and Galactic Pot-Healer. Very good guesses is you want a variety of titles from a wide number of years. However, I really dig his second suggestion, that a trilogy of VALIS, The Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer would make sense. These three, written very close together and tightly wound round each other, are not a trilogy in the Lord of the Rings sense. They are more of a set in the way that some of Clint Eastwood’s films (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; Outlaw Josey Wales; Unforgiven) could be seen as a set: thorough examinations of the same setting, similar themes, and sometimes contradictory thoughts, but of such a piece that reading them all heightens the experience of each.
I am now rambling, so I’ll just go think about robots and calm down.
*NOTE: Commentor “Chuck” mentions below that the editor of the PKD volumes, the wonderful Jonathan Lethem, will be speaking about them at the Cooper Union here in NYC. Information on his talk can be found here. Thanks, Chuck!

Philip K. Dick’s kids: The future keepers

This LA Times story is about the efforts of Philip K. Dick’s children to ensure that future film adaptations of his books come out more like “Bladerunner” and less like “Paycheck” (Ben Affleck, a pox upon you). The article is very interesting, and the best part is at the end where his daughter discusses meeting the PKD robot built with misguided love by some PKD fans:

When was the last time Hackett saw her father? Well, in a way it was 2005. That’s when a team of scientists — all of them among Dick’s many devotees in the wired world — put his face on an eerie android with lifelike skin, camera eyeballs and an artificial intelligence that allowed it to recognize old friends. When Hackett saw the face she almost fainted.
“It looked very much like my dad,” she said. “When my name was mentioned it launched into a long rant about my mother and this one time that she took me and left him. It was not pleasant.”
Hackett, knowing that her heritage and life pursuits require a certain affinity for the bizarre, said she “understands” where the robot’s creators were coming from and that it was flattering that they selected her dad to be the face of their high-tech curiosity. That android, by the way, was supposedly “misplaced” by an unnamed airline, its handlers said, a shady story to say the least, but Hackett doesn’t miss the contraption.
“That flight it was on, the one where it was lost, it was headed to Santa Ana. That’s where my dad died. That’s fitting, I guess. It’s still out there somewhere.”

First, I didn’t realize that PKD had such attractive offspring.
Second, I’m so glad that so many of his books and stories are making their way to the big screen.
But third, the man was a writer of ideas which work so well in book form that I hope that people don’t forget to READ him.
One of the upcoming films is Ubik, one of his best and funniest novels. It’s worth reading, no matter who is cast in the film.
And the film I’m looking forward to the most is probably the one that isn’t even one of his books: Paul Giamatti will be playing PKD in a biopic.

First Nuclear Blast


I post this because of the power of Oppenheimer’s words. I’ve been working on the end of a novel and a character is loosely based on Oppenheimer. I’ve been looking for some insight into the man’s feelings and stumbled (who believes in coincidence?) onto this video. It’s exactly what I needed.
Sometimes, if we keep our eyes open we find ourselves guided to the material we seek or need. And when that material is as powerful as this is (his emotion is so visible that I feel his guilt for him) it’s impossible to ignore.