Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Somewhere on the Road to Folly


I’ve been in a slump lately. Not writer’s block. My burner’s on and ideas are simmering. But more like I’m stuck on what to write.

My problem is that I’m at a crossroads. I’ve had some success with short fiction. I’ve even begun the transition from non-paying to paying markets. Now it’s time to take the next step.

Yep, it’s time to finish a novel.

Here’s where my dilemma comes in. For months, I’ve been torn over which project to finish first. Somewhere on the Road to Me and Jamieson’s Folly are both finished in first draft form. And I’ve even taken a beginning whack at revisions on Somewhere.

Logically, Somewhere should be my first finished novel. I wrote it first. And in many ways, it’s the novel that lives nearest to my heart. But the problem lies in the sheer amount of work needed to get it into saleable shape. I wrote it without any cohesive plan and meandered my way through the entire sprawling first draft. As much heart and soul as the story has, technically and artistically, it’s a train wreck. To get it into shape, I’d have to toss out 60% or more of the existing text and completely rewrite it from scratch.

Folly is much better, from a first draft standpoint. I wrote it during last year's NaNoWriMo and, knowing I was working under tight time constraints, I approached the story with a well-conceived story arc. In spite of my haste, the overall writing is more sound. I know with a little review, a little research, I could step right in and run with it.

The answer came to me over the weekend. While at a party, I got talking about my writing with a friend of mine. (surprise, surprise) She asked me what my novels were about and, after my horrified, deer in the headlights response, I did my best to give her brief summaries. Her response settled the issue somewhat. She was interested when I told her about Somewhere. It’s the kind of story I know she likes to read. But when I told her about Folly, her eyes lit up and she said, “Wow, that sounds really good!”

I’ve given her response a lot of thought.

I don’t think her interest means that Folly is so much better than Somewhere. Instead, I think it’s just that I’m clearer on Folly and, subsequently, able to communicate it better. I’m closer to doing that elevator pitch agents talk about, where I corner a prospective agent in an elevator and summarize my novel in a sentence or two. And as any writer knows, clearer in the head means clearer on the page. Clarity should always be the writer's touchstone.

So I talked it over with my husband, who added more fuel to the Folly fire. He gave me his blessing to go to Vegas for a few days in November to do the necessary research on Folly.

I guess I have no choice but to go.

So I set aside Somewhere, though it breaks my heart, and pick up my first draft of Jamieson’s Folly. I have hard work ahead of me, that’s for certain. But I feel like I can do this. The signs are there. The time is right. It’s time to step into the world of Nick and Nathan Jamieson and his marvelous seven natural wonders.

What a journey I have ahead of me...


Stephen said...


Let me first say that Folley was a great read for me. Thank you for letting me review your first draft. My impression is that it shouldn't be that hard to take to the next level, and I think your friend's response was the right guide in making your decision. Good luck with all the work ahead of you, and I look forward to celebrating your success.

Secondly, your husband is pretty cool to let you do your necessary research. I wonder, though, if he will also volunteer to go along with you as your assistant. You know, for educational reasons...

Take care.

Greta said...

Stephen, my husband is exceedingly cool. But no, he's not coming along. I'm "researching" with a lady friend.

Thanks for the encouragement. You've reinforced my thoughts that this is the right project for right now. And rest assured, all those notes you offered on D1 will be coming with me :)