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.

3 thoughts on “The Death of a Novel

  1. First, a wise man once told me it’s okay to take a break. Second, could you write a short story related to the novel? That might keep you in the voice and style and characters for a while.

  2. I thought of that too, but I feel like a short story related to the novel would in effect be trying to recapture the novel and continue it as a w.i.p. There are two reasons for this:
    First: I have the story I aimed to tell, so I don’t know what I might do. It would feel forced. Almost like dating a clone of your ex.
    Second: for this novel doing another story would really be like keeping it as a work-in-progress because the novel includes stories within stories. There are at least three smaller stories – in effect, short stories – embedded in the novel. To do a short story would be either keeping it alive, or starting a sequel. I don’t know that this book has a sequel.

  3. Nope. You have to go through it. Even if it had only taken you a few weeks to write it, the attention, the intense intimacy of the concentration…. It’s like love. It’s like the moments when you’re just sure you understand the unsayable. It hurts when it goes. Denying it is just dishonoring it.

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