[If you're not a writer or have no interest in a writer's whining, you should skip this blog today.]
I haven't been able to write fiction for almost a year. That's not good, if you want to be a fiction writer, and I do. It's been miserable. "Is it all gone? Was that all the writing I had in me? Was it just another five-year hobby? Was I fooling myself? Am I a fraud for hanging around the Rumor Mill?" etc etc etc.
Today, work being verrrrryyyyy sloooooowwww and verrrryy borrrrring, I went for a walk to get some cool (cold!) air. I stopped at a used bookstore and picked up a book on what editors look for in a manuscript. Heck, if I can't *write* at least I can *read* about writing! And I went to the coffee shop, got a croissant and some raspberry ice tea, and settled down for a nice read.
Except I'd only been there about 5 minutes when I started feeling sick. Kind of nauseated. Bad tea? No--it was nice and fresh. What, then? Christmas goodies? Well, I'd had a few, but certainly not enough to cause this queasiness that gripped my gut. Finally I gave up on the book, set it down, and looked around the room. And it came to me: I have to destroy the last 8 chapters of that novel I was working on.
This is a long-time project, I started it in about 1998. I was afire writing the first 19 chapters; they're about the male hero. Chapters 20 - 27 were about the female, and from the beginning of Ch. 20, it was like I was frozen in a block of ice. Every word was an excruciating extraction, pulled from the roots. I toiled on through Chapter 27, ever more slowly and painfully, until it came to a halt. No more. I couldn't face the damn thing; I couldn't fix the damn thing; I never wanted to see or think about it again.
This was intensely frustrating because this was the part I'd been mulling over and over and over since about 1973!!! Yes! This is a 27-year old story!!!
Oh, I'd been saying to myself and to my critiquing partner that those chapters sucked, they were boring, the girl is a dolt! and who cares what happens to such a milksop anyway? I've been thinking that for a year now, I guess.
But it didn't really sink in until today, over raspberry tea and an editor's advice book. Plop! it came out, accompanied by birth pains and everything. Those 8 chapters must die.
From deep within me came a WAIL--and immediately thereafter, it was as if a great stone was lifted off my chest. The queasiness went away. I could breathe again!
I know (I've known) what I have to do: I have to start Reilly's part of the book over completely from scratch. Only NOW am I really ready to do that! Some part of me had been clinging to that 27-year old story line, the particular characters she encounters, what she's like, what she does, how she is...but today, at last, I understood what this block has been trying to tell me: I'm not 23 years old any more (as I was when this story first started winding and rewinding through my head), and I don't have any obligation whatsoever to fulfill that fantasy I nurtured all those years. I have half a lifetime's experience and insight, study and practice, to bring to Reilly's story, and it's silly to hang onto that old blueprint.
I can do anything! Especially: I can sit down and write Reilly's story as she tells it to me today, through the prism of who I am today. It will be a much better book; it will serve Reilly much better; and it will do me, here today, much prouder.
[And yes, my partner in paranoia, I do know I have you to thank, partially!
You know who you are.]