I don’t end a book when I am writing, I divorce it. Yes, I have a literary breakup. “I’m sorry, it was a great run, and I really enjoyed our time together. I will always cherish it, but I need to move on.”
Dating, in my opinion, is a great way to describe the writing of a book. There is the initial first crush, the hint of interest that drives the beginning; the first date, learning about each other; and there is even that moment of pure writing ecstasy when things all come together in a magical union of bliss…. Yes, I just compared writing to sex, let’s move on before all of us feel more uncomfortable.
And also, sometimes like in dating, things don’t work out and you realize after the “first date” or “second date” that you and the book are just two different and won’t “mesh” well.
Taking it a step further, if I didn’t wipe my hands of even a completed work, and walk away, I would be forever working on a novel, rewriting passages, rethinking plots. I have never experienced the “Ah ha! Eureka! It’s done moment” and I probably won’t. It’s not in my literary makeup as well. So, for me as a writer, I simply need to know when to say when. This part of my writing brain is one of the reasons I cannot go back and read my old work easily.
Yes, on this site, I have shared some of my older work and enjoyed revisiting some of it, but it is all a very rare occurrence for me. I think even in doing it I said how shocking it was when it happened. See, usually, picking up an old work is the equivalent (here we go again) of bumping into an old girlfriend at a coffee shop. Yes, it is that same awkward feeling for me. “You’re looking well…” you always say, no matter how true that really is.
See, every time I pick up one of my old works (especially those in print) I find… well… things. Things I want to rewrite, things I am disappointed about (I could have done better, or what was i thinking?!), and, horror!, mistakes I didn’t catch. Those moments are punches in the stomach each time, and I can never laugh them off.
No, it is best to break it off, move on, which brings up to my next point and how different this writing process is…. Oh wait, one last point, for those curious after this discussion: I am very happily married and coming up on my tenth anniversary.
Short Stories… or Novel?
Writing Permanent Spring Showers (which you can catch up via the page… please do) one chapter a week and out to the public as compared to how I write a normal book (as a whole), is interesting. I’m having a little “breakup” each week; having to walk away, not able to go back and fix what might need fixing.
Because of this, in some ways, it doesn’t feel like I am actually making a “novel” but something more like a collection of short stories, since each chapter needs to have its own unique focus with a definite beginning and ending (You want to come back for more, right? I need to leave you with that vibe each time). I really rarely think that way about chapters in an actual book. Dare I want to admit that this is more like a soap opera because of this structure? (I just had a cold shiver go up my spine).
Luckily, I have not had an “Oh, f**k!” moment with this book; I have had some minor “Oh, s**t!” moments but I think they can be remedied easily enough in time.
See, originally, my dream was for the weather in Permanent Spring Showers (which is always very influx during the spring) to be almost its own character. I even considered including brief weather updates at the top of each chapter, setting up the mood for the bit ahead. Does this sound crazy? Possibly, but I did a similar gimmick with “lighting cues” in my book Megan.
It was because I did something similar in Megan that I decided not to go ahead with it, also since this is 25 chapters long, doing that for more than a few chapters would get tedious for the reader…. Well, it would have gotten tedious for me the writer.
Cute ideas like that, always can get a little too much after a certain point.
I also considered using weather to symbolically represent each character or their mood. Steve would have had a lot of rain showers around him, etc. But it felt again too much.
So the weather and what spring represents stays where it originally started, in the emotional turmoil of the characters involved in the story, each as melodramatic as a spring day in March.
One of the things really inspiring me around the writing of Permanent Spring Showers is the characters. This may seem odd to say, but a lot of this comes from the awe I felt the first time I read Middlemarch by George Elliot. In that book, Ms. Elliot (Is that the correct way to refer to Mary Evans?) weaves together a series of different “real” stories and unique characters to tell one whole. And the book ends, with probably one of the most moving passages I have ever read (Yes, I am going to ruin it here):
“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
See these are real people, real lives, the ones forgotten lost in graveyards that no one visits anymore. In other words, everyone has a story, a purpose and they impact those around them and then are lost to time. Losing the bit about “unvisited tombs,” it is a beautiful way to look at life, how true it actually is is debatable, of course; adding back in the “unvisited tombs” can make a person want to weep for all of the lost memories, knowing in our heart it will probably be true for us and all we love as well.
Now, I don’t write a thing like George Elliot. I would never even dare put myself near her pedestal, but the inspiration of creating a multitude of real characters, real moments in their lives, that is a piece of awesomeness.
Yes, some of my characters are, honestly, “out there” but I see and talk to “out there” people all the time. Sometimes people act on their strange beliefs or dreams, sometimes they don’t. At the heart of Permanent Spring Showers, I am aiming for something human like George Elliot did in Middlemarch.
So why am I going on and on about this? Well, a part of me wonders if I should have more characters. Can I truly hope to accomplish what I want with the book with only these characters?
Okay, I am not trying to create a long opus of a work like Elliot (Middlemarch is over 1000 pages), this is just 25 chapters coming out to a little over 300 pages, but there is that part of my writing psyche that always wants more, more, more. Right now I am at about 5 main character (plus or minus some as the work moves forward), with around 10 supporting characters. It’s a good number for any book, especially in our culture where we seem to focus on the “individual” in novels (especially in genre work, or more “pop” books) as compared to the “whole” of the human experience.
In the end, I want it to feel like the reader visited these characters for a season, and like us they had lives before that season and will have lives afterwards. This is just a moment I am capturing and taking out for a nice candlelit dinner.
Chapter 9 is up tomorrow.
If you liked reading my article (and maybe my book in process, Permanent Spring Showers), why not check out some of my published books? I had two novels published in the last few years, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here. Thanks for reading!