May 7, 2011
My Unfinished Novel
Well here it is. My unfinished novel. What a mess! To be honest, this is not even the completed first draft. (I'm ashamed to admit this. I started this book more than two years ago.) I have not yet written an ending. I am confused, anxious even, about whether to revise what I have written before finishing the novel. I've left my characters dangling in Chapter 26. My main character, Genevieve, is about to solve the mystery of her best friend's death. I'm wondering, worried even, how exactly she will accomplish this. Paul has just returned from a photograph shoot in the Congo. Now I'm unsure if I should have sent him to Africa. Maybe Europe would have been better? This rumination makes me want to return to the first chapter and begin changing, adding, improving. Fixing. I am paralyzed, scared to move forward or go back. I wonder if I should just toss this thing into the recycle bin and start something new, tear down all the pictures of people, places and things on my novel vision board that I have stared at every day for these past two years.
As you can see, I've begun making some editing marks on the hard copy. I've also done a few doodles, too. I have carted this novel back and forth with me to Colorado, hoping the location where I have set my novel will inspire me to write. Oh, sure, I have a lot of fun visiting the places where action happens in my book, but actually writing? Nope. I'd rather stare out the window at the deer. What is wrong with me? Will I be yet another person who only talks about writing a novel at cocktail parties? I tell myself I've been a paid journalist, a freelance writer, had short stories published and essays. Still, I can't help feel like a lazy failure.
Perhaps I'm afraid to finish my book, to say goodbye to my imaginary characters. They feel real to me. It would be like many small deaths. I understand why some authors write series with reoccurring characters. In that way, you get to keep the main character in your life. I was never good at letting go. Or maybe I've written myself in a corner. I'm at a crossroads and don't know which direction to head next. Writing teachers and published authors often say finish first then revise. But in writing, there are no hard and fast rules. Some authors revise as they go. I read that the author of Sophie's Choice, William Styron, was a meticulous editor and did extensive revision on each chapter before proceeding to the next. One of my favorite authors, Gail Godwin, says she sometimes returns to previous chapters as she is writing to add certain elements, but then keeps moving forward. I envy those writers who just breeze on through, going back only when they are finished. I think the majority of successful writers are in that camp. They actually complete the book before revising. They are probably the same people who don't refer to a map when they drive. I like to look at an actual map, not just a GPS, and see where I'm going. I want to know the names of the rivers, the populations of the small towns, if there are rest stops along the way. Okay, I admit it. I'm a bit of a control freak.
Perhaps that's my problem. I feel as if I'm driving in the dark with my headlights off. The 75,000 words I've written have all been in the wrong direction. What a waste of time and gas! My unfinished manuscript haunts me, the characters look at me with accusing eyes, as yet another day goes by with my neglect. All these questions I've asked can only be answered by one person. Me. And only one person can decide whether or not the story she is going to tell is worth telling. Me again.