For months I’ve been mentally preparing myself to revise my novel. It’s sitting there on my flash drive, backed up in my email, and in my Dropbox account. I’ve been trying to prepare myself to sit down, reread it, and finally decide what the hell I need to do to it. When I finished it and had people read it, I was told “the skeleton is there, you just have to flesh it out.” It’s historical fiction and I don’t think I’ve done enough research, and I feel like I don’t know the right details to make it strong. To make it believable. To make it good.
I should mention my mother said it was “alright.” While I’m blessed to have a mother who is honest, oftentimes brutally so (seriously who tells their kid their novel is okay, that’s messed up right?), it still hurt to hear. When I defended it to my thesis committee, I felt that they didn’t think it was literary enough and found it to be more of a genre piece. This was also painful. There is an element of a “love story” in it, and when I was told it was “marketable” it wasn’t in a small-press-get-recongized-for-being-profound way, it was more of a stay-at-home-mothers-would-appreciate-it way. Although Nick Sparks tapped that market, so yeah I wouldn’t mind owning a boat and not being in debt. I think love stories scare professors or something. There is definitely a danger to play with cliches. While I wasn’t expecting my committee to tell me I was the next Aimee Bender, I did feel like I walked away having disappointed TC and my committee and still not understanding what the eff literary even means. Frankly, by the time the process was done I was so over it. I wanted to chuck it and never look at it again. I was told by FH, TC, and my mother that I held back. Held back from what? What am I so scared of?
Now that some time (okay too much time) has passed I think my eyes will be fresh, and I can look at it less critically. I know what needs to be done. The arc is there. For the most part the novel needs to be filled in. It covers a very long period of time and there are gaps in time that don’t necessarily need to be covered but addressed, and there are storylines and details that need developing. I also need to do some major research. I suck and hate research. Research is why I will die when I decide to finally get my PhD. Seriously. I hate research. My future dissertation is going to be my death. I’ll be buried under books about Beckett or Borges or God knows who else unable to breathe shouting, “How am I not myself?”* This is how I envision my death. At least there are books involved.
As of right now, the novel is about 200 pages long, maybe a little less. When I started the project and presented it to TC, I was told I was writing a 500 page novel. I laughed and told TC that I was not. I’m sure when I start rereading it I will finally realize TC was right. I’ll have to finally dig deep and pump out another 300 pages. Although a page a day is less than a year of writing. That’s not so bad.
The past couple years I have been really struggling with my fiction. My non-fiction is not an issue. I feel very comfortable writing about myself. Possibly because I’m a narcissistic, selfish bitch (it’s true readers, and you know it) and because writing about myself and my family is something I’m very comfortable with. For years I’ve been saying my family could be the next Kardashians, only likable in our craziness. Not to mention, watching rich people be crazy is annoying. Watching real people be crazy, that’s entertaining. My issue is with my fiction. I have hit a road block. I have a short story sitting on my computer that I have no clue what do with. I don’t even know if I’m halfway through with it. I don’t know if it might be part of a novel. I just don’t know.
There is some strong writing there, I think. I have the horrible habit of reading my writing and wanting to rewrite it immediately after it’s been processed by my brain. I’m so self-conscious. I think it all sucks. Frankly, when go through some of these blog posts I wonder why some of you come back for more. I’m grateful that you do. I don’t tell great stories like Wide Lawns does. Now that girl can write. I feel like I don’t have any ideas. None. Zip. It’s an empty space up there.
For sure my fiction is suffering because I’m not reading enough of it. I’ve been trying to get through some short stories and I’ve finally sat down with the Marquez. I’m also reading a book about running because I’m training for a half marathon (got to get skinny for the wedding). I’m hoping that as life begins to stabilize I’ll be able to get some fiction going. Actually, screw that. I’m not going to hope. I’m going to do. I think feeling ready to revise the novel is a big step for me. Huge. Lately I’ve been dreaming about my characters, worrying that they are lonely in the world I’ve created for them. I swear those suckers are alive sometimes.
After some small errands and a fierce workout I’ll sit down and finally start digging in. I’m scared to death I’m going to want to throw it in my fireplace. Good thing it’s hot as hell outside.
Why is revision so effing scary?
*If you didn’t get this I Heart Huckabee reference hurry up and put that movie in your Netflix queue. Seriously. Do it.