I haven't written a word of my work-in-progress all month. Yes, we're only seven days into February and yes, I have been ill almost every one of the last seven days (damn you, virii!), but still. One likes to tell oneself that one writes every day.
Although I haven't put any words onto paper this month, I am thinking a lot about the story. That's how I've been writing this book, it seems: planning each chapter in my head and then writing it down and then thinking for a few days or a week or two about the next chapter and how that chapter continues the story but also leads to the ending I want. I'm doing a lot of outlining in my imagination, telling myself the story over and over and seeing how it all fits. This is not my usual method, but this is not my usual type of story. This book is more about examining attitudes than about working out a plot. We'll see how that goes.
One problem with a book of this type is that I find myself in about the dead center of the narrative and I need to keep the story moving forward but there isn't any particular action required of the protagonist and his foil character. I need to have a couple of things happen in terms of timeline (the male lead needs to have knee surgery, poor guy, and the female lead needs to return from Africa to America), but neither of those things are really EVENTS, so I've been thinking of ways to make those plot machinations into significant character moments, places where I can dig deeper into these two people's souls or whathaveyou. I have some solid ideas, I think.
So that's me, thinking about my work-in-progress but not so much adding to my wordcount. I also have a couple of manuscripts out on submission with small presses, but the publishing world moves at its own pace and I haven't heard anything back yet. I am still trying to figure out what to do with my odd little philosophical detective story. Try to find an agent? Try to find a small mystery publisher for it? Call it a fun time had and move on with my life? No idea.
I'm also thinking a lot these days about the idea of writing for publication, and how less happy I was when I was working with agents and worrying over every stinking word I wrote, trying to decide if those words were marketable. That was some stress, I tell you. It's more fun writing for the joy of writing than writing with the hopes of selling something, really it is. Though of course I'd love a publishing deal and I haven't ruled that out. I think the book I'm writing now has Pulitzer written all over it. I think that about almost every book I write, though.
But the publishing world is odd, and engaging actively with it does things to you, and they are not always good things. A friend of mine, whose writing I greatly admire, writes nontraditional books that don't strictly follow the "transformative journey of the hero" template. Her stories have more indeterminate endings and she often explores the parts of life that happen after all the excitement has died down. She has several books out, and more coming out soon, from a small publisher. They are respectable books and the prose is lovely and the thinking is deep and original but they don't sell by the truckload. My friend could sell truckloads of books if she wrote to the popular outsider-turned-hero formula, I'm sure. I don't know if that would make her happy, though. It's a puzzler.
But that's the writing life, for a lot of us: filled with unanswerable questions and no guarantees of anything except that we'll keep writing because stories are our art and we're artists, yes? Many of the artist friends of the Literary Lab have written stories for our Variations on a Theme contest, and we are slowly making our way through them (I've been ill, I repeat) and we'll announce the lovely chosen entries soon. I am once again amazed at the quality of writing and that you guys sent us these stories. You have no idea how cool I think it is that I'm connected--even by such an untouchable, anonymous thing as the internet--with a bunch of people who share my art, who will write despite the lack of guarantees and answers, because writing is what we all do. That's supercool. Keep it up.