after three weeks– one week doing final apocalypse edits, two weeks prioritizing family, and now calling to novel across the desert plains. how to get back in: when I write stories I get back in by rereading what I have and doing tiny line adjustments. the act of doing the adjustments on the page makes me adjust my brain, too, like a radio dial of old. but you can’t reread your 200 page draft to get in because if stories are about one gulp novels are not. they are about motion, I think, right? so the trick wld be to find a place to catch the wave. logically. but that is supposing the wave is formed enough to catch. these pages I have are not wimpy thin pages. but it is still true, as it is in short form, that I construct the world of the novel line by line and only when I finish a piece does that world feel wholly imagined beyond the words that are meant to suggest it. conventional wisdom is you do not revise until you have a full draft. but I think most writers know a lot more about their plots and their characters before they make scenes and sentences than I do– b/c I take so little for granted when I start off– and what I write towards in the first draft is the sensibility and shape of the piece– and often I have to imagine really hard to know the people and the places that are suggested by those words, so that then I can add more words, or adjust words, to bring out the people and the places that I can finally imagine in a way that is meaningful to me. so now I am working with what I think is a 10 chapter book, 20-35pg chapters, with chapter 5 the longest, with plot and subplot weaving. Ch. 1 is notes and, as I imagine it, is going to function like a short story/prologue. Ch. 2-7 are drafts I’ve worked on a lot, 8 is a solid first draft– the only one I wrote from scratch while in Rome– ch. 9 and 10 are notes. I rewrote 2-7 while here in order to GET to write 8. I have been tracking, as I write chapters, things I need to figure out or am learning about earlier chapters. things like “which of these people has what relationship with books and art?” or “okay she has this house she’s obsessed with but what exactly does it look like?” or “okay really what is this guy’s job?” And now I have a sense of these things. So this entry is an effort to justify going back through the drafted chapters again– knowing what I know– and really depicting character and place, and trying to delicately adjust language as I make decisions about it, but trusting what I have there b/c everything is so intertwined that if I forget one thing in ch. 8 I can fuck it up by impulsively revising a sentence in ch 2. But even though I like my reasoning I am afraid that I should just do what I’m scared to do and write ch 9.
But I also remember another feeling from writing stories, especially when I was first learning to write stories, and that was waiting for the next thing to ripen just enough in the imagination that it could burst when I finally sat down to work on it. I think that might be the case between chapters, that I am not ready to write this one because I still have imagining to do in order to arrive there, in the dark house I know my protagonist is about to enter. The house will seem empty. Birds will be in there. And then the dogs will appear chasing the birds– and then something– of several possibilities. It’s the climatic chapter, so I have to have the whole novel bulging behind me to push me in there.