Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Chapter 11, such as it is, is done. After writing the previous blog entry I went back and immediately understood what wasn't working. The first try had had too much reflection (pages of Rachel lying in bed thinking about things) and the second not enough (I had been trying to cram too much action in too short a space of narrative time, like an overstuffed piece of carry-on luggage). It was, it appears, a problem of pacing.

That "it appears," while it might seem like a pretentious bit of throat-clearing, may actually have been the truest statement in the previous paragraph. For what is to say how all of this might seem later? Writing a novel is one of the strangest experiences I have ever had, (not that I am complaining, for I have wanted to write a novel my entire adult life) and one of the many curiosities is how one's view of it changes over time, gradually yet definitely, like a view of a distant object, a mountain range, say, as you approach it. Everything about it: Whether you think you can do it, what you think has to happen, who the characters are and what they want.It is an unfolding over time, just as a novel is for the reader.

I have changed too, and maybe not for the better. There is a constant pull between writing and everything else. "Everything else" includes human contact, walks in the sun, museum visits. Today I am filled with guilt because I went to see a movie unrelated to Jane Austen instead of spending the afternoon on Chapter 12. The conflict between living in the world and living in the world of your own imagination, and imagination has to win.

And yet. A while back I wrote about writing on the subway, impressed by this new accomplishment. Now it seems routine, like tying my shoes. I take a seat, open my notebook, and the world falls away, the words flow out like water. Good or bad, they come like some place in my mind has turned on the tap, from distant spot in my brain. And that is kind of astonishing, how these words seem to march out of my brain and onto the page. Like I am dreaming, but I am awake.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In the Weeds

I have started Chapter 11 two times. Today, I realized I have to start it again. Maybe the third time will be the charm.

Despite starting it twice, and producing quite a lot of words, especially the second time, I realize I have been avoiding Chapter 11 like a friend I have have wronged in some obscure way and am afraid to apologize to, for fear of making it worse. I keep slinking away from Chapter 11 and finding other important things to do, like cleaning the kitchen countertops. This sense of avoidance, dull resentment and boredom regarding TJAP is something I have not faced in months, not since I was first trying to imagine Rachel and Liam's first days in 1815 and finding it very uphill work.

What's going on? It's not just that the writing is bad, is just pointing to where I want to instead of actually going there, because that has been true the whole time and I have not allowed to stop me. First drafts are about getting there, not getting there in style.

Chapter 11 is some way is the gate, the hinge that has to open into the rest of the story. Chapter 11 is where Rachel and Liam meet a bunch of other Austens: James, Cassandra, Edward and Fanny (they are actually surnamed Knight, but never mind). Compared to Henry (who likes everyone) and Jane (who is at least interested in everyone) they are a tough crowd. They have each other, they have strength in numbers, and they find something a little not-quite-the-thing about our time travelers.

Yes. There needs to be more conflict; I think this is the problem with Chapter 11 as currently written. But what is the heart of the conflict?