Thursday, January 20, 2011

writing report

I've been remiss, to leave you for days with only a picture of Florida for inspiration. But the fact is - sometimes it's hard to live a life and chronicle it at the same time. I've been doing lots of teaching and editing, and simply surviving winter takes a lot.

But mostly, I've been writing. Yesterday, I barely moved from this computer from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m., except for meals and Jon Stewart and a brief visit from a friend. A glorious thing happened last week, when Mr. Choy and I put our souls, in manuscript form, in each other's hands. He has called me twice to say that one key point I made about his main character opened a doorway for him and has triggered an avalanche of material. I was very happy to hear that.

And I've been just as happy to tell him exactly the same thing - his suggestion for my memoir, that I start in a different place, made something click. This is how important the opening is, the lead, as they call it: once I had found the right voice for the first page, the rest of the manuscript began to come clear and fall into place. Not only that, but a lot of the work from my seven weeks in Paris two years ago works in this format, I was thrilled to discover. Not without adjusting and rewriting, but I've been able to take big chunks of work already done and fit it in.

One of the most important things he said to me was: Love that girl. You're undercutting her, you don't love her enough. He was speaking of my 13 year old self, the star of the book. And he was right; I didn't have confidence in her ability to hold a narrative. But I'm backing her fully now.

Last Friday, W*son read 18 pages; now, the following Thursday, the manuscript is 175 pages long. Lots and lots, mountains still to do, but there's a shape and a spine. I know, you've heard this before. HE has heard this before. But I do feel it, this time, to be true.

Around all this, life makes its demands; I cook, shovel snow, go to the Y, phone my mother, edit manuscripts for others and teach classes and watch the young hawk hunt in my garden. But underneath, always bubbling along, is this book. After eleven years of incubation and struggle, I finally feel I know where we, the manuscript and I, are going.

This is one of the greatest joys for a writer, when the raw material finally start to flow. As Mr. Choy said, it's like a door swinging open to that bright world of imagination and words.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do.

P.S. This is a terrifying blog post. Maybe I'm wrong, and in a few months, I'll be writing here again - no, sorry, didn't work, boring and lifeless, no narrative tension, the way I have many times before in the past few years. But somehow, this time, I don't think so.

Stay tuned.

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