• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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I Can Never Leave the Past Behind

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Someone once described writing a novel like walking into a forest. At first, it’s a fun adventure, then you get completely lost and have no idea where you’re going, and if you’re lucky you get out alive. Whatever you want to call it, the light at the end of the tunnel, the darkness before the dawn, the serial killer sitting beside you, it’s so fucking hard to write a book. I’ve been midwife, doula, nursemaid. I’ve been personal coach, personal trainer, armchair shrink. I’ve gotten writers into rehab, into therapy, into jobs and relationships. It’s this monster of a thing and it doesn’t even matter how many times you’ve done it. It’s like holding the phone book in your head, or juggling with organs, or biting the head off a monkey. All who enter beware. Okay, it’s not that bad. It’s just a slog and a half.

Where are you in your project?

18 Responses

  1. Timely post. I was having a grand old time in the forest until today. Now it’s gone all dark and murky and I’m lost. My characters are all looking at me hopefully as if I know how to lead them to safety. We’re all eye deep in the slog.

  2. In the first 50 pages. It is a big undertaking and an emotional rollercoaster!

  3. I keep restarting chapter 2.

  4. Over the weekend I finished an outline. Ten years ago, I’d have been, outline? I have found there’s comfort in it. Maybe I won’t get lost! (eyeroll)

    Yesterday I opened The Word Document That Will Hold The Story. I a title page. Formatted the header. Wrote Chapter One.

    Above someone said “I keep restarting chapter 2.”

    They have chapter one!

  5. I made it out alive. But then I went back in for a second stroll. Right now the trail is beginning to get steep.

  6. I’m walking through meadows instead.

  7. Querying, which is a helluva worse slog than writing novels but you gotta do it.

  8. “Where are you in your project?”

    Which one? Oh, that one. The one that defines my life and the meaning I chose to give it when I was way too young to have any better sense. Oh, well. We all have to have a life. May as well try to give it whatever meaning we can. Ain’t nobody else gonna do it for us.

    So, the project. The damned project. The Project of the Damned. (It could be worse. It could always be worse. Read the news. See what happens. My god, the things people do.) I’m in final review after significant rewrite, teetering yet again on the brink of trying to find a publisher. I thought this book was finished four years ago and started shopping it around. Time passed, it got “rejected with love” a couple times, rejected without so much as a wink or a nudge several more times than that, then by and by I realized I was not happy with it. I think the basic premise works, the writing is good, but the book needed restructuring so it would flow better. And some parts of it needed excision. Some darlings had to be slain.

    So, a couple months ago I whipped out my straight razor and I went a-slashin’. I think the book is now as good as ever I will be able to make it. I’m glad I still care — somebody should — though it often eludes me, now that I am undeniably an old man, why anyone else should.

    But I won’t give up. I can’t give up. I bet my life on this particular, peculiar paper chase. I am never so content as I am when I am working at my writing (and my photography, there’s that, too).

    Where am I in my project? I am my project, and it is me. Where else could I be?

  9. I like the forest. I’m moving along, trudging through the deep snow, searching for the buds on maple trees and looking for a home for a nearly completed story. The hardest part was the beginning, so I tried starting at the end and that led me home.

  10. I’m out of the woods.
    Every once in a while I wander back in to clean up a few sticks and leaves. Recently I left some seeds behind to germinate. They did. Now I’m back to raking up the fallen dead stuff and adding it to the pile of rot in the ravine. The forest floor is pretty clean and the canopy is looking really well-groomed in a natural way. I have high hopes for this forest among weeds. High hopes that this is the one with the best trail forward.

  11. I’m taking baby steps with my second slog, but I forget how to walk…

  12. I’m two thirds done. Maybe five eighths. This is the year I finish.

  13. This didn’t post when I told it to a week ago. I quite like sneaking in here and posting something no one will see. I modified it a little, because time passed, and also, my facts were wrong. Sneaky, me. Here tis anyway…

    Today is Day 20 of writing for me on this book — and I gave myself 20 days to get the draft finished.

    I aimed at 45K words, and I finished right on schedule time-wise, but at 54K words instead.

    Of course, I’m not in the wilderness, writing proper novels, braving the elements. I’m in a fenced-in Pulp forest of my own choosing — where I started by building some fences to stop me from straying out of my genre, and into the real world.

    Still, there’s something to be said for not struggling too hard. For making it easy on yourself, doing something you enjoy, and feeling how good it feels when the books come out often, instead of almost never. It’s not for everyone, I know, but it helps me — my sanity and my happiness.

    Before I started this book, I spent three full days working out where the forest path would go. I made a good map, and stuck to the path rather a lot of the time. Like any walk in the woods, I still found lots of interesting things I hadn’t expected, so I had lots of fun anyway. And quite often, as I walked I sang, in whatever voice pleased me — I love that part of it.

    After I take a few days to myself — while the editor does all the hard work — I’ll wander right back on through, finding stars and interesting clouds and a few wild animals I didn’t see the first time, and then I’ll have the second (and final) draft finished. I’ll spend three or four days mapping out some lovely new Pulp forest, and another enjoyable journey will begin.

    I’m sorry if this sounds disappointing — and I know I’m not struggling enough to be considered a “real writer” these days. But I feel saner, richer, so much more fulfilled than when I spent every day half-dead from cutting myself as I fought my way through those wild places. Not all of us are cut out to be brave adventurers, I guess. Now, where are my slippers and a fresh cup of camomile tea? Time to read a GREAT book — definitely not one of mine.
    See? I still get to see the whole world — I just don’t have to create it.

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