Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Victory Garden

I kind of finished a draft of my book, The Victory Garden, this week. Today, with sick kids and still waiting for my Grandma to have her surgery, I went through and put it all in the same font and adjusted the spacing and the indents at the front of paragraphs.

I've been looking forward to this part of the process.

It's kind of like the part in a jigsaw puzzle where you have all the border done and you've separated the green parts from the blue parts. Everything is on the table now and you have some idea of where it will all go.

This draft came together really quite quickly - five months - but it's partly because it's the third book with the same characters, so I know them well, and partly because I pondered and researched all summer and then exploded into writing when the kids and husband returned to school this fall. Also, because paid work has been spotty all autumn.

There are two major challenges with the book right now.

One is that it's too happy. If you read early drafts of my first novel with these characters, you may find that hard to believe, but it's true. I need to really look at whether it's legitimately happy or whether it's cheesy.

The second problem is that it's a bit more of a play than a novel. Today as I was indenting every paragraph, I was struck by how often my characters toss lines back and forth with each other. As I said, I know the characters well - I know how they talk and there's a good rhythm to their dialogue. What needs fleshing out - and a lot more - is the setting. I realized early this fall that this was happening with the book. It was very peculiar because when we were in the town that inspired the book this summer, I sucked in the atmosphere of the place, made detailed notes, really inhabited the place. And then, as the story of the characters took hold, it might as well have been set on a dusty stage with blackout curtains behind them. Well, not quite. Still, that's one of the things that needs addressing.

What I can never remember now is how to do this. Do I print off a copy? keep notes of repairs needed? cut and paste in literal ways? There is no actual right way, I suppose. You do whatever works and that can be different from story to story. I have written books longhand and books on the computer.

What I do know is that this revision process stretches my brain like nothing else I know. I have to simultaneously keep the big picture and the little details in mind. Try doing that for a while. Sometimes it feels like a muscle is being exercised between my ears. For real.

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