This Glamorous Writing Life

As a fan of the late E. L., Doctorow–his Ragtime made me fall in love with the Progressive era–I felt validated when learning that he’d said this about novel writing: “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

That describes me. I don’t outline. I’m in the writing camp known as “pantsers,” as opposed to “plotters.” So after writing a first draft of Candlelight Confessions, my work-in-progress, I started revising, which in my case often means overhauling. I threw myself into it, massaging style, complicating character relationships and plot, and even toying with nitty-gritty stuff like changing “happy” to “glad” and back again.

It occurred to me I needed a bit of back story regarding Irina’s failed engagement. So I wrote a scene. And that inspired another and another and another. Magnificent scenes. Characters revealed new sides of themselves, and things happened that laid the groundwork for later events and character motivations. I was happily immersed in the anguished act of creating, which is essentially problem-solving, squirming with uncertainty and myriad possibilities, then knowing I’d found my way on this journey, as Doctorow suggests.

Then a forehead slap from my friends who critiqued these chapters at Austin Novel in Progress. I’d gotten seduced by a detour, that one new scene that called for more. Trouble was, these scenes did little or nothing to advance the story I intended.

Stunned, I listened to Tim who suggested I take a month off. That was about three weeks ago. The characters and story visit me now and then, but I swat them away. Hard to say what will ultimately happen with these pages. They just might end up in the landfill (or, to be PC, the recycle center) with the approximate 100,000 words cut from Compromise With Sin.

I’m occupying much of my free time working on piano technique and learning new songs. I’m not sure what will happen once I get back to the book. I just know I have a story to tell and characters I want to hang out with.

Your thoughts? Leave a comment.


The cave you fear holds the treasure you seek.

–Joseph Campbell

2 thoughts on “This Glamorous Writing Life

  1. Hmm. I’m trying to figure out my year-plus absence from my writing. What you said at the end of your blog got me thinking. DO I have a story to tell? Well, I felt I did once, but I’ve told it so many times, so many different ways that now it bores me. DO I have characters I want to hang out with? Well, I did once–these characters were fun–or at least a little intriguing. Now I’d rather hang out with the amazing characters in Wallace Stegner’s book Angle of Repose or with Alexander the Great’s companions in Mary Renault’s GREAT books. They are much more exciting, interesting. So I may never go back. But I know you will, much the better for your month-long absence. You GO, girl!

    1. Patsy,
      First, from what I’ve seen of your WIP, you do have intriguing characters and a story worth developing. That said, I hope you’re enjoying your hiatus instead of getting heartburn from it. I’m just about to resume revising/overhauling, but I’ve had such a good time this last month that I may take a break again before all is said and done.

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