This is a follow-up to my February 24, 2009, blog post, in which I discussed the fact that I had an idea for a new novel. Since beginning this blog last year, I've posted a number of new project ideas: a novel about Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; a business book about writers, designers, and clients; a book about my experience befriending a Turkish family, and others. In some cases, the post is all the work I had accomplished towards the project; in others, I actually had notes, research, an outline, or actual pages of composed prose. But for some reason I've had trouble sustaining progress on any of them.
Actually there are a number of plausible reasons: lack of time, family and work pressures that sap one's energy and inspiration, loss of interest, or intimidation at the scope or challenge of the work. I would say that any combination of those reasons are in play for all of the projects I've posted about on this blog. Except one: the latest one.
I am happy to report that I have already written more than 10,000 words (19 single-spaced pages) towards what I am continuing to call NEW NOVEL. I don't feel comfortable naming it yet because there are any number of directions it could take. I'm very much writing without a net this time. I have a plot - the first-person narrator has a recurring bad dream that he knows is caused by some issue or missed opportunity in his life that has been haunting his psyche for years but when he tries to suss out what it might be, he finds there are a number of possible suspects in the form of bad jobs, failed relationships, tragic loss, and other psychological traumas; he needs to figure out what is causing the recurring dream and try to fix it so he'll no longer be plagued by the dream - and I recently figured out what the climax will be, but I'm not sure how I'll fill the pages from where I'm at until the climax hits.
This new work is very different from my first novel, which was based on the 17th-century English folk song "Matty Groves." With that novel, which was told by an omniscient third-person narrator, the entire arc of the story already existed in lyrical form. While I created new characters, extended the tale with new scenes and situations, and added a bit of a fillip to the ending, I still was working with material that someone else had already figured out. This time out, the subject is talking directly to the reader, with almost no dialogue (so far, anyway), and the stuff he's saying comes so close to my real life that I had to ask myself if I was writing a novel or creative nonfiction.
I decided that my life is more interesting fictionalized, and it's also safer because some of what I'm writing represents very difficult, painful memories and ongoing stress, and I'm just not ready to peel all my skin off in the name of art. There's a lot of truth in what I'm writing, but it's not self-reportage and if I tried to claim it as a memoir on Oprah, I would soon enough be found out.
So while what's fictional represents a thin veneer over my first-person testimony, it's still enough to give me the freedom to make things either better than real life or worse, as the story requires.
The only drag is that when you get into a groove like this, it's almost addicting. Even tonight, it's killing me that I had to make a choice between writing the book or writing a blog post about my progress. Obviously, I chose the blog post and it's partly because I knew I could keep it short and get to bed at a reasonable hour. When I'm writing the book, I try to write at least 1,000 to 1,400 words at a sitting, and as a result, I've been up past midnight a lot lately. As it is, it's almost 11:30pm so I'm signing off for now. More updates later.