I know you know this, but I am writing a novel. Big surprise: that’s what I”m writing about today.
Once, at workshop in the West Virginia mountains, I heard Meredith Sue Willis say, that whatever your novel is, you should know it will change, and that you will change, too. She also said that novels are made out of scenes, and then words.
Both are true in this case. Over the past 12 years this novel has been a short story, a first-person present-tense account, and then, now, a past tense third-person omniscient. It has remained dormant in notebooks for years before coming back alive with a ferocious sprint, and then slowing down again to a light stroll with copious breaks for trail snacks. While my characters have remained (except for one that I cut pretty early on), almost everything else has changed.
How like life, to change, yet to also remain true to itself. Though things change, much remains the same and when we look through history, we cannot be surprised by what we see now. Life has always been life, and people have always been human.
The long of it is 30,000 words, and more than that. It goes beyond what I have written or typed. Now, in my notebook of new chapter drafts, I find myself copying passages of scripture, in a way of submission, instead of actively writing more of the story.
Are your ears awake? Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches. –Revelation
Worthy, O Master! Yes, our God! Take the glory! The honor! The power! You created it all; it was created because you wanted it.-Revelation
I find myself copying passages about writing that encourage me.
Do not worry about the whole. Write what is next, the idea that comes now, at the moment. Don’t be afraid. For there will be more coherence and arrangement than you think. -Brenda Ueland
I find myself journaling my insecurities and whatever nonsense pops into my head. I find myself submitting to the will of God. I find myself questioning the call of this novel. Is this something that I want, or something that He wants? I want to be sure that I know, though at this point I really want to drop it, but I can’t. So, I guess I do know.
I find myself learning more about the process of writing than I find actual scenes and words for this novel. I find myself taking joy in the ease of writing poem drafts (no matter how terrible they are, I can at least get an entire draft finished in a few minutes, and that is deeply satisfying when, for other projects, there is no end in sight.)
I find myself trying to remember all that I’ve written regarding this novel. Most of it is in one of two notebooks, but a lot of it is also scribbled on loose pages that I had meant to organize with everything else. When I can’t find something I thought I had written, I feel a bit distressed, as if I’d lost something important. Perhaps I did lose something important, but really, more truthfully, since you can’t lose what is in you, I know that the exact words of a first draft are not always as vital as I imagine they are.
If I recall a scene but can’t find the draft, surely I can rewrite it. What is important will remain. Keeping every exact, initial word is not my goal. And that is true for life as well as writing.