Slowpoke

2009 has not yet given me a new novel. Why can’t novels fall out of the sky fully formed so we can query agents with pretty, polished pages and secure representation and advice on what to do next with our wobbling careers and then wake up the very next morning to book deals that allow us to pay off all our student loans, every one, quit our jobs and write all day on fluffy feather beds while eating an endless supply of truffles—and why do all my fantasies involve truffles? I want the easy way out, the truffle-solution, and we all know that’s not a possibility in the real world, down on the ground where it takes work to write a new novel and where TV beckons because you just came home from dayjob with a headache again.

Such is the progress of my new year so far. Two months in and I do not yet have a showable manuscript—not even close. I just—yes, again—went back to the drawing board on the main plot (visions of “high concept” dancing just out of reach in my head), which will confuse what I’ve already written, and I am rethinking the name of my narrator yet again.

What has been happening? How did two whole months get swallowed up?

January came just when I turned in my revised manuscript for DANI. So I had to recover. Then I did a reading, had to prepare for that. Then after the reading, had to recover. Then, February came, and I did a bunch of freelance work that ate out large chunks of my brain. Recovered. Layoffs at work—lost two friends—every day sucks without them there and still have not recovered. Got my final cover—that was good. Reviewed the copyedits on DANI, also good, which I turned in to the publisher on my birthday this past Monday. But I was still really tired after that, so more recovering.

Other than that, the writing has been slow-going. Sometimes I think I’m being slow on purpose. Protecting myself subconsciously maybe.

I am having a hard time letting go of this, the last time I put myself out in the world. That was when I was trying to be a literary fiction writer. Well, I’m starting over and I have to let go.

Please, someone come over and force me to let go. And bring truffles.

Before I Say One More Word…

MY COVER:

final-cover-dani-72

Yes! That really is my cover! That gorgeous piece of art by the amazingly talented Marcos Calo! AND the scene continues onto the back cover, so there’s more art there and I’ll show it when it’s ready!

Stunned does not begin to describe it. Thank you to Marcos Calo and everyone at Simon & Schuster / Aladdin for this awesomeness, especially my editor K, who made all of this possible.

I have a cover! Can you deal?

(Now that I got this out of the way—tell me, how could I not share this, how?—I am now free to talk about everything else going on right now, including getting my copyedits for the first time last night, still working on the novel-long plan for my novel, gathering up freelance work in a panic, and in day-job news, devastating layoffs at my company that left me reeling, though, yes, I do still have a job, for the moment. But I’ll save all that for later. Because right now? COVER!)

The Novel of Your Wildest Dreams

What would you write about if you could write anything in the universe? What secret thing grips your heart and won’t let go, no matter what anyone else says about it? What would you put down on paper if you just had permission? From your family, from your friends and ex-friends and enemies, from interesting strangers, from the world outside, from the world in your head, from yourself? If you had the skill? If you had the language? The plan? All the time in the world?

You don’t have to tell me… I’m working on my own answers as we speak.

Sometimes, like last night, I’m squeezed in between two elbows on the subway, avoiding the wet spot on the seat, counting the blocks till my station, and I think: Something could fly across this train and chop off my head. Or I’m stepping out on the crosswalk and I think: That bus could have just crushed me. Or I imagine our building turning to rubble. Or food poisoning from my peanut butter at lunch. Or my heart simply giving out. And I think of all the things I would leave behind from this life: stuff, stuff to be thrown away. And the novel in there? The one I could be proud of if I could just get it out? I’d take it with me.

I want to write it first. I’d like E to read it—I love how he looks at me when he reads something of mine he really likes. And you?

Time + Panic = Manuscript?

A wise friend asked me yesterday, If I had all the time I think I want to write, would I spend the time actually writing?

I say I would. I stood there and told her I would. I stand here now (fine, I sit here now) and I’m telling you I would. But of course you can’t know until you’re in it, can you?

I’ve made good use of little time in the past. I’ve made bad use of little time a lot more than I want to admit—hello, reality-show train wrecks I’ve stared wide-eyed at for hours at a time; hello, internet. I’ve made bad use of endless swimming pools of time—full summers, whole years—wasting every drop.

Twice in my life, I had long expanses of time ahead of me in which to write, and each time I faced up to it. I did write. The reason? A ticking clock. Impending doom. I seem to work really well under the heated, ticking pressure of doom, I guess. If I am panicked that the time will soon be over, I make better use of what I have left. Sometimes.

Here are the two times it worked:

Success #1—Spring 2003: Quit day job, stayed in the city, worked on a novel until I found a new day job. Memories: happy. Pages: lots.

Success #2—Spring 2005: Took leave of absence from day job, went to colony in New Hampshire, worked on novel for four straight weeks. Memories: Missed E, but happy. Pages: approx. 300 revised.

Both of those times I consciously told myself I’d use the time to write—and I did. However, the novel I worked on (same novel, different revisions) didn’t save my life or anything, so I probably shouldn’t label them “successes.”

What do those times have in common, aside from lack of day job? There was an end in sight. Spring of 2003 I desperately needed a new job asap. Spring of 2005 I got kicked off the colony at the end of four weeks. The time ahead of me didn’t float on forever—it stopped short and shoved me off the edge. I was in a panic about it, and the panic pitched me forward, woke me up mornings, kept me in my cabin, made me write.

If only I could re-create the colony experience every weekend. I would need the following things:

  • anxiety
  • a picnic basket (they delivered early lunch to your door in a basket painted with the name of your studio)
  • thermos of coffee (found in picnic basket)
  • a laptop
  • a desk
  • a chair
  • NO INTERNET ACCESS unless you walked to the main hall
  • at least 8 hours until the dinner bell rings

What am I waiting for? I don’t have a picnic basket, but I have more than enough anxiety to fill up 8 hours… Now how do I turn this internet thing off again? ;)