I have had a wonderful writer’s week (so far).
Last week, from either a stomach bug or food poisoning, I spent Thursday through Sunday in hit-by-truck mode. I didn’t sit down to do any real new writing even once (the KDP vs. Kobo posts had been written earlier) but did have lots of time to finish Daniel O’Thunder by Ian Weir and plough through my growing stack of neglected lit journals.
Shameless plug: Daniel O’Thunder is a wonderful, roiling tale about Dickensian London and an epic boxing match with the Devil. It’s the kind of book that makes me love writing. Full disclosure: Ian Weir gave me a blue-pencil session at SIWC and signed the book for me, so I am biased that he’s awesome.
On the journals: I now feel caught up on all the dysfunctions, infidelities, drug use, soul-torture, and basement-apartment-living I’d been missing while reading other things. And lots of self-questioning by lots of sad, sad narrators. Ahem.
But I’d like to focus on a couple of days this week that really boosted this writer’s efforts.
On Monday, I had a video-chat session with my Humber School for Writers mentor, Nino Ricci, who has been working through Old Habits (my WIP) with me. He gave me an hour of his time, where we chatted about the direction of my novel. Nino’s been very generous and gracious with me as I move through my draft (what Anne Lamott rightly calls the “shitty first draft”) and has been very affirming of my writing progress and process, despite my draft lacking significant cohesion and vision.
Since submitting my last chunk of the WIP to him, I have felt that my novel has started to take on real shape: it is now fully outlined, the characters all have places to be, and I’m feeling the exciting momentum of seeing where it could lead. I was able to explain all of this to Nino and share my ideas. After that, we spent the remainder of the chat session brainstorming and theorizing ways I’ll be able to strengthen further revisions. It was a very encouraging and productive session. I am buoyed.
Full disclosure: I covet the bookshelves Nino has in his office.
Yesterday, I had another boost: a character breakthrough. I have a character that has really made his way into my heart: he’s young, innocent, and a real helpless product of his environment (what’s not to love, right?). But his role in the novel has always been predicated on an idea about the character and not why he exists in the work – i.e. he has always been a good character with a good connection, but not an excellent one. But you, fellow scribes, know that good ain’t good enough and I have at times questioned why and how he made his way into the novel at all.
The breakthrough came to me in the middle of a chapter where, after his father’s death, his mother sells him off into what is, in essence, slavery. I was typing away, worried about this dear boy, when his clear role in the shaping of events in the remainder of the work popped into my head. Sure, I lost a precious half hour of writing time as I adjusted the outline, made sticky notes, and brainstormed, but that’s small beans indeed compared to the boost and focused direction I now have. What a nice feeling.
To sum up:
- Food poisoning is bad.
- You should read Daniel O’Thunder.
- Literary short fiction is often depressing.
- I get to call Nino Ricci by his first name. (Right?!)
- There’s real potential for my WIP to be an excellent novel.
- It’s nice to have positive news about a shitty first draft.
It has been, so far, a week of goodness for my writing. Thanks for reading.