Last Wednesday I placed myself in relative isolation. In five days I wanted to:
• Complete the first draft of my novel When We Come Home
• Complete not one but TWO non-fiction book proposals (in fairness, one of them is already nearly complete)
• Organize the first three quarters of 2009 for my accountant
• Address 48 holiday cards – writing a individualized greeting on each one first
In reality, the cellophane is still wrapped around the boxes of holiday cards, the accounting is untouched, the non-fiction proposals haven’t been opened and I’m two chapters shy of a first draft.
I consider it a very productive five days. I found out why so many novels end up shoved in the back of a desk drawer, unfinished.
But that’s not going to happen to mine. I’m too close.
I spent the first three days doing exactly what I was told not to do: reading the manuscript, revising and editing. I corrected continuity problems and added more history – When We Come Home is, after all, historical fiction. I needed to immerse myself in the story again – and I did.
I dipped into one brilliant book: Masters of the Air by Donald L. Miller. It’s the story of the 8th Army Airforce – the B-17 pilots who fought the air war in WWII. And I dipped into Leslie Haynsworth and David Toomey’s Amelia Earhart’s Daughters. A good book, but I found two type-o’s without even trying and that always sort of ticks me off (note to self – spell check).
Oh – and I wrote. And deleted. And re-wrote.
I deleted an entire chapter when I considered the logistics of a single woman, without a car, traveling from Palm Springs to Tule Lake and back again in five days during the winter of 1943.
I reconsidered the sweeping romantic gesture of my planned ending. My characters deserve more.
I reluctantly let go of a major cliché that I will not divulge because – quite frankly – it’s just a bit too embarrassing.
And now, in about an hour, I’m packing my bags and going home to my little studio. I’m returning to my regular life – the life where I squeeze the writing in at the crack of dawn, during lunch breaks and on weekends.
It would be nice to be heading down the highway with a first draft. But I’m not disappointed. It’s possible that I’m leaving here in a better place – with a better understanding of not only the writing process but my writing process.