Process, Process—Ach, Mein Gott!

I used to teach writing to college freshmen, or to describe this more accurately, I used to wander in hollow-eyed horror through linguistic landscapes lacking in flourishes of grace, hints of logic, or recognizable transitions.

That’s what so often happens to people who love language and the beauty of writing. They become English professors, teach freshman composition, and spend their lives reading the worst writing the civilized world has known. Look for me standing in the dumbass line.

Part of what I tried to teach my younguns was something that I did not know myself while in college, that to achieve the best writing you are capable of, you do not simply sit down and write something and you are done. It is a process. Always.

And ain’t it, though? Goddamnit, why can’t it ever be easy? Good writers may not always be inherently better than other people, they’re just willing to suffer more. Once you lose enough blood, the text is starting to improve a bit.

I didn’t intend to write a novel. I was simply out sailing my little boat peacefully on placid water, like Odysseus, when suddenly—Hey! what’s that cool music over there? Near those rocks!

Part of the process of writing, as a very close friend pointed out to me, involves thought. And I needed to be told that because I didn’t want to do it. As I have already described in some of these posts, so far in this book I have Benedict and his daughter, Miramar, with the intention of sending them back in time. I was not sure what to do with them, but because I want this book to be rather fun, it occurred to me that I might do a kind of picaresque. The ones that come to mind without Wikipedia are Tom Jones and the wonderful satire Shamela, and no doubt Don Quixote as well.

So what I’m thinking is that Benedict and Miramar will set out from Missouri, where they begin, headed toward Philadelphia for the Centennial Exposition in 1876, but with periodic interludes back in the present. Then last night it struck me, as if a choir of angels, or at least Snow Patrol, had come to sing me the glad tidings. In the sections that take place in the present, Benedict can be driving Miramar back home from Missouri to California. Thus, they will be moving, at more or less the same time, in opposite directions, 135 years apart, with different kinds of adventures in both cases.

Well, don’t criticize it yet. I’m still working on it. It’s a process.

 

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Filed under Giving Birth to a Book (That's Why I'm Screaming)

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