Writing

Closing the gap.

A few posts ago I mentioned that it was my goal to finish this from-scratch-rewrite of this novel (which I sometimes refer to as “USLS”)  by April 5th! And since it’s the last day of the month I felt compelled to post a status update.

I’m so, so close. There’s what I call a “front story” and a “back story” (an A story line and B story line, I guess) to this project, and today I wrote the final scenes of the front story. The back story is more complicated, and has some missing parts / requires some rearranging.

I’m creeping towards 80k words, which is exactly the ballpark where I wanted this novel to land, as it’s intended to be a YA book. I’m the type of drafter who really expands a ton in subsequent rewrites, so this is for sure going to get fattened up before it gets trimmed back down.

It’s crazy to think back to years ago when the first seed of an idea for this novel popped into my head. I occasionally glance back at the version I was writing in 2010, and it’s fun / unbelievable to see how much my writing and my instincts have changed.

I keep thinking about that Ira Glass quote about storytelling. There’s this beautiful YouTube video of the quote that pairs his voice with kinetic typography — I watch it again at least once or twice a year just to remind myself:

I first stumbled across this during grad school, and it’s really stuck with me all this time. I thought: Yes, that’s exactly how I feel. I trust my taste, but somehow the stuff I write just doesn’t come close to matching what’s in my brain.

And so I did what he said. I did a huge volume of work. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I did eleven drafts of the novel that was my MFA thesis. (Four drafts by the time the thesis was due, and seven more drafts after.) I fiddled with rewriting some short stories, and recently published one of them. I went back and rewrote a huge chunk of USLS with a new voice and a different cast. I started a brand new novel, and wrote six and a half drafts of that before deciding to step away from the vehicle for a little while.

Following that: on January 2nd of this year, I started this totally new version of USLS. With yet again a new voice. New main character. New cast. New premise. At its heart, still the same story of family and identity and love that I’ve been trying to write for all these years. And now I’m almost done with the new first draft.

The craziest, most wonderful, and also terrifying part: I’m starting to reach the point where the work I’m generating is almost matching what’s in my brain.

Part of me didn’t believe it would happen. I listened to Ira Glass over and over again, telling me, “It’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap.” But part of me was still praying the fairy godmother of the book world would come and bestow upon me that ability to make real magic out of words. Part of me waited in the shadows while my brain obediently churned out page after page, and whispered doubts and fears and feelings of inadequacy whenever I got stuck.

But it’s actually happening. I’m producing stuff I’m really, truly proud of. It’s so much slower and harder than I ever imagined. And there we are again, right back at my eternal struggle with lacking patience.

There’s so much work ahead. But this novel is so important to me. I’m ready for it.

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