Friday, August 16, 2002

Smoke (the new novel) seems to be coming to life within me. This morning I woke early, filled with a fresh awareness of it: hearing the voices, seeing the streets. It’s taking shape at last, and it’s considerably different from its ill-fated predecessor. (I did get two good short stories from Dry Spells, as well as a lot of practice. And maybe someday I’ll return to it.) I know the basic situation, and I’ve got an arresting, lyrical beginning for the book — which I may end up scrapping, simply because the voice doesn’t belong to any of the characters. Rats. On the other hand, it almost stands on its own as a poem or a very very short story.

Smoke presents several different problems from a technical POV. First, how do I build a readable book around unbearable tragedy? I have to lighten it somehow, and the new take I’ve found recently may help with that problem. Second, how do I make the changes in the church come to life on the page? The slow change over the years is not easy, but I’ve figured out a way to dramatize it. (I hope.)

I want to have a few good chapters to show at the writers’ conference. That means a lot of work this weekend, next weekend, Labor Day weekend, and the weekend after. Hmm, four weekends, maybe some time during the week, Labor Day itself. . . . maybe I could get 30 to 50 pages done. And/or a plot outline; though I rarely work with one in fiction, it might be a good idea this time, just because I’m working in little chunks rather than every day.

I’m having to learn an entirely new technique for writing — no, that’s unfair. When I was in grad school I had classes three days a week, wrote two days, and kept the weekends for Billy. That worked well enough, partly because I was spending time in an atmosphere where writing mattered. It is fair to say, though, that I’m having to learn how to balance living in a family, working full-time, and writing, and that’s not easy.

But worth doing.

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