Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tomorrow is Mac day!

Tomorrow, I get my Mac. I have to say that there is something about starting a new novel (even though I have a hundred pages done already) on a new machine that is so hopeful, and so wonderful. We all use every trick we can to get immersed in the long process of writing a novel, and I've decided that for me, there are stages to the process.

1. Stage one is the honeymoon stage. I have a premise that I am absolutely and totally obsessed with, characters I love, a first chapter that works (and this first chapter is my life support. I will cling to it when the novel gets rocky.

2. Stage two is disaster. I'm in the middle of the novel and I have written too much to junk it (plus there is that first chapter) but I have no idea what I am doing. The plot seems boring or nonexistent, the characters are cartoons, and the writing is slightly better than an 8th grader in a remedial class. Make that an 8th grader who doesn't read.

3. Stage three is panic. The novel is done and it makes no sense. I wail to Jeff that my career is over and he always grins and says, "Oh, must be going well then." I am mortified to call my agent and editor and I think seriously about how nice it might be to go to dental school instead, to laugh at this little stage in my life when I actually thought I could be a novelist.

4. Stage four is after ten more drafts when suddenly I realize the theme. I see what I have been writing about, which is generally nothing like what I started out on. I feel like I've run an 800 mile marathon, and gradually as I reach the finish line, I see a new idea forming for a new novel and the whole cycle begins again.

5. But wait there is another stage--the publishing stage. Many writers think publication will change your life. Ha ha ho. If you are lucky, you get reviews and good and bad ones, too. You may shake your head at the good ones (Am I really the next Hemingway? Last time I looked I didn't write about gruff men who like to hunt and I certainly don't write in chopped sentences) and weep bitter tears over the bad..("the tiresome Leavitt..."). In the space of one day, I got a full page rave in the Washington Post and then a full page pan in another paper (I'm still too wounded to mention the name), and the pan loathed everything the rave had adored. So who is right?

Many writers don't read their reviews. Many read to see if there are suggestions on how they can be better writers. Many read just for an ego boost. I always try to see if there are valid points where I can grow as a writer, and I admit, when I am in stage 2,3,4, I will pull out my good reviews and reread them to give myself courage to continue.

There is media--radio and TV--and then finally, it dies down and there is the bliss of you, the blank page, and a story you are obsessed to tell. (And hopefully a Mac to write it on!)


Clea Simon said...

MAZEL TOV! Enjoy your new Mac!!

I'm thinking that the way to get into anew book is by pretending that I'm just experimenting. I don't have to show it to anyone and I can just trash it once I get to about 300 pages. I just have to do those 300 pages as an excercise... that's my new technique for today, anyway.

Sorell Says... said...

Congrats on your new mac!!!! This is very exciting!!!!

I have to admit, I get strangely attached to my old technology. I still have my blueberry Mac clamshell, and the idea of parting with this one...that I wrote my first and so far only novel...stresses me out a bit. It's as if the accomplishment of that novel is somehow tied to this old machine. Weirdly superstitious I know.

As for being 100 pages in...WOW!!! I am 7 pages in and feel as if I've climbed a mountain. Albeit a small one :)

Kass said...

All true and helpful,as usual.

Its inspired me to get back to my novel- stated in your class.
I finally finished my Pittsburgh story- Ive been working on it since June- but intensely since August- it's 25 pages long-I lost count at rewrites after 20 - just sent off to printers. My question is- new writer that I am- are short stories harder than novels?? That was SO hard!!!and wonderful at the same time of course. Maybe because its memoir it was more difficult- i dont know..But also don't know how I could write whole novel if it took so long to get just these 25 pages to perfection!!!

Good luck with the new Mac- mine is joined at the hip to me..

Jennifer Gooch Hummer said...

You are the most generous writer on the face of the planet.

Sorell Says... said...

I must agree with Jennifer, it's true.
Caroline, this blog is a great gift that you give to all of us writers out here in cyberspace. You are an inspiration!!
I look forward to reading your next post...on your new mac!!!