Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pressure? What pressure?

Two days ago, my friend Sharon came up with a brilliant solution to a nagging problem in the novel-so-far. This ties up all kinds of loose ends (even though I'm only halfway through the book) and also considerably deepens the characters' emotional turmoil.

As somebody once said, "Your job as a novelist is to find characters you love and torture them for several hundred pages." Yep.

My other two faithful readers, Gary and Jim, thoroughly approve of the change, but it will require a major revision of the first eight chapters, which I've already revised once. I'm going to go ahead and write the remaining seven chapters according to the new schema, and then go back and revise the whole thing.

Today I realized that to make the September 1 deadline for submitting the manuscript, I'll have to write four pages a day. That doesn't include the Alaska cruise, or a chunk of August when I want to take a class in Berkeley, but it's still a scary prospect, especially since I have to start now, in the thick of teaching.

I've been talking to my students about ritual as a way to get into writing space: tonight I devised my own pre-writing ritual, which involves a tape of ocean waves, a candle, a Tibetan singing bowl, a lucky beach rock I found on one of our San Francisco jaunts, and the smell of lavendar. Tonight, at least, it worked. I cranked out my four pages, although I don't know how good they are.

Wish me luck, please. We're talking about months of very consistent work here, a longer stretch than I've managed in the past; it will be an endurance event, and I'll need to keep up my strength, not to mention my faith in the abundance of narrative and my own story-telling ability.

I swam for an hour this afternoon, which I'm sure helped this evening's writing. I hope to walk tomorrow, weather permitting. Today's weather was ghastly, gloomy gray with unremitting snow flurries. But spring's coming, right?


  1. Jeff Smith11:24 PM

    Hi, Susan.

    Good luck with the novel. I'm glad you had a nice time in Hawaii. We went in 2009; it will be a few years before we get back. We did go to Oahu that trip; we don't always. We always go to Big Island because we have a friend there, and we always go to Kauai because we like it the best. Then we'll go to one or two others depending on how much time we have. When we go to Oahu, on our first day we always go the zoo. We're so jet-lagged (coming from the east coast), that's a nice, easy thing to do in half-zombie state.

    I walked up Diamond Head once, which I thought was a nice trek. I didn't walk to Diamond Head, though. Good job.

    We did an Alaskan cruise some years back. It was great. We went with a small-ship company, only 90-some passengers, and that worked really well for us -- especially when we would come across some big ship parked outside an inlet, and zip past it going to see some incredible fjords that they couldn't manage. It was mean to gloat, but we gloated anyway.

    I was worried I was going to be stuck eating a lot of salmon, which I don't care for. (I know, everybody else loves it.) But instead I learned the joys of halibut.

    We did a week land tour and a week cruising. My favorite bit was one afternoon on the land tour, when we were on a flat-water river raft. After we went around the first bend, we were in wilderness, no sign of human habitation. Just sat back, relaxed, blocked out the other people on the raft, and looked as a world unchanged for hundreds or probably thousands of years slowly drifted by.

    Have a great time!

  2. Anonymous7:04 AM

    I am happy to report that spring is here in Rochester - the first time in ages that I think we may all be able to wear cotton dresses to celebrate Easter Sunday. May the new weather come your way soon as well!

    And as we all enter Holy Week, may you have a blessed one. Thank you for all your words and your witness since the beginning of your blog. I know it has sometimes been a hard year for you this year, but your willingness to keep the faith even in the tough times continues to be an inspiration to me.


  3. Anonymous7:07 AM

    ps - and yes, of course I wish you luck with your writing! May it go steadily and smoothly - or, alternatively, may rich and fruitful days follow any dry ones you happen to encounter along the way to the finished manuscript.



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