Self-Indulgent?

I guess there’s something inherently self-indulgent about weblogs. I sort of wish I had something more interesting to talk about than myself, but there are plenty of other bloggers doing that already, so, what the hell?

My wife’s ship deployed yesterday, so I’ve got all this damn time to kill. Based on feedback from several voluntary torture victims — I mean, readers — I’ve started what I hope will be the final revision of the book before I start looking for an agent.

That’s when the fun will really start here at the Lithium weblog: all my friends and family will get to see how many rejections I get from the lit agents I query! Stay tuned! (for the next month or so, if you can bear it.)

Finally, I Can See the Street Signs

I eventually started seeing the street signs through the fog and started getting an idea of where I was and where I was going. It was like finally deciding to open up the map when you’re lost.

The first, and most essential, was the idea that the narrator’s mother had abandoned him. This provided a massive amount of characterization for all my characters at that time. Another major piece was the idea that she was manic-depressive.

I started fleshing out these characters, realizing they needed careers and interests (this perhaps seems obvious, but for some reason I thought these things would just manifest themselves as I wrote the story. I didn’t realize I would have to sit down do some actual thinking about these characters. These are two very separate processes for me: thinking about structure and doing the actual writing.).

That was how I spent 2004. I owe great debts to Kay Redfield Jamison for introducing me to the world of manic-depression and to all the wine I was drinking for the idea of making the father a winemaker.

The Foggy Path

While Lithium is in ‘the bottom drawer’ I thought it would be interesting to record the history — the process — of the thing. It’s maybe a little presumptuous of me to think anyone will be interested in this, but, for the sake of posterity…why not?

(I will here forcefully hold myself back from offering an in-depth history of myself as a writer.)

The working title for the early chapters of the novel was The Things We Leave Behind, which sounded rather grandiose and sufficiently all-encompassing, which is why I abandoned it. It was going to be an earnest, cinematic novel. The first sentence was going to be something like:

We open on Main Street, early morning. Parked cars line the silent street. The lights are on at the cafe.

I wanted to capture the energy of film somehow, but this proved difficult to sustain and I soon lapsed back into less stylized prose. Throughout much of 2003 I was stuck with this idea, though. I was just writing. I had no idea of character or plot, though these things slowly developed as I daydreamed about the narrator I’d created.

Impatience

Oh, how difficult it is to wait quietly for someone to read a manuscript! Several friends of mine have copies of the first completed draft, and I’m getting antsy. Someone else, a writer and more of an acquaintance, has a copy, and I’m really anxious to hear what she has to say.

Why? I need to know what other people think about it, people who haven’t been living in the story for a year and a half. I’m not sure how unbiased my friends will be, hence the curiosity about the writer’s thoughts.

I can only imagine this gets much, much worse when the submitting process begins. When an agent has it, or an editor…O God…

Reading

Without a writing project, I have more time to read. More and more, I do that reading online, reading blogs on publishing, reading book reviews, anything that will be helpful when the time comes to query lit agents.

But I’m also reading short stories. I dabbled in short fiction writing for months before deciding to write a novel. I realized just how difficult the short form is (in part thanks to an introductory essay to Best American Short Stories 1997 by Annie Proulx) and tried the long form instead.

I find now that I want to try short fiction again. I have a better sense of character creation/development now, which is the most important and most difficult thing to do in a few thousand words.

It seems simple: create a character and stick him/her into a compelling situation and see how he/she deals with it. And yet…

Now what?

What does one do after he writes a novel.

After two years of thinking about writing a novel and a year and a half actually writing it, I find myself with 70,000 words saved on various types of computer memory. So, after waiting a couple days, feeling good–feeling really good–I reformatted the text (double-spaced, easier on the eyes of gracious readers) and printed it out on my laser printer.  Here was my first surprise: the file was too large to fit all at once into the printer’s memory! Truly, this was a prodigious stack of writing.

After getting it printed (it’s called Lithium, by the way, hence the title of the blog), I then had the task of making copies. Not wanting to spend the money at Kinkos, I made them at the office, on a Sunday afternoon when no one else was around to see what I was doing. (Don’t worry, I bought my own paper.)

It took three hours to make four copies of the 220 page manuscript because the office copier is anything but a workhorse. How could I have explained the fried hunk of machine on Monday morning if I’d overestimated its tolerance for abuse?

And now my wife has a reading copy, and a friend has a reading copy. I haven’t decided who to give the other copies to yet. At some point I’ll have to read it through again myself, but I’m letting it breathe for a while first, make some new acquaintances.