Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Journal of a "Novel"-Entry 19

I am keeping the quotes in my journal title, even though Duke has implored me not to use quotes, because I used them for the first 17 entries, so no reason to change them now. However, I appreciated Duke's comment because he was trying to say that I should believe in the legitmacy of my enterprise, which is a point well taken. I also appreciated the other comments made to my recent teaser post of the first brief segments of Chapter 1 of the novel in progress.

By way of compromise, I will call this novel a novel in the entries themselves, and in other notes from here on. No matter how much I may feel like an impostor, it is a fact that a novel is indeed what I am trying to write, so let's just call it what it is: a novel, a novel in progress, a part of a novel, whatever.

An End is in Sight, and a Huge Mountain Looms After That

Thank God for small milestones. I think I can see the end of my first chapter just around the bend as I continue to work on the opening to this story. I have been putting in time most days, dreadfully small amounts of it, but I'm doing what I can. On certain occasions I have been trying to put in what I call 'two-a-days', working on the story both in the morning and on my lunch break at work. Fortunately there is a local library near where I work. As long as I brownbag my lunch and eat it while working at my desk, and my workload is not too heavy, and I don't dawdle around, theoretically I can escape my desk, rush to my car, drive to the library, and get in about 30-35 minutes of effort. It's NOT AT ALL ideal to work in 30 minute blocks, because frequently I am just beginning to figure what I want to write just as I have to return to work, but anything helps.

As I work on this story, I realize I am living out my own story of becoming a writer, and that story is being written as I live it. I have had the opportunity to think about this idea from a recent novel I have read, in which an autobiographical story was told as the author lived it. I am not working on an autobiographical story, but as I work on this I am also "writing" the story of my own success or lack of success as a novelist. If I succeed it will become my own lore, and I will be proud to remember how I sometimes put in work on the book in the middle of my other work, fitting it in whenever I could, just to get it done. If I complete the novel but it never gets published, I can find some consolation in the fact that I gave it as much as I possibly could while trying to live up to my responsibilities. If I never finish the novel, well, that's on me.

The literary world is replete with similar tales of the struggles well-known writers went through to produce that first book, the one that allowed them to go on and write other books. That may never happen for me, but in my better moments it is exciting to think that some day I might be able to look back and say, "Man, for that first book, I poured everything I had into it. I did everything I could do to get that book written." In fact, I can see the day, which may or may not exist in my future, when I might say to myself, "In a way, you can never get back to the way it was when you were writing your first book. The wild abandonment, the extreme sense of having nothing to worry about because you have nothing to lose, the concept of chucking in everything you have as if you only have one shot and you're going to take it." I can see how one who writes a successful book and then goes on to do the whole literary career thing might become nostalgic for the time when they were nobody, no one knew what they were or expected anything out of them, and they could just write purely from the impulse to get whatever the story was inside of them out.

This is where I am these days. The first chapter is in fair progress, and there is at least some momentum beginning to develop, and I am very grateful for that. The material for this novel has the seeds within it to grow organically, almost on its own, and I am hoping that by forcing myself to sit down and pay it attention as regularly as possible, the seed will begin to flourish. Others have done it, it is unquesionably possible.

Where am I in the story? The primary characters are being introduced, most of them being present at the central event with which the first chapter concerns itself: the wedding of Walter and Greta Brogan. They attend the wedding, and head to the reception where good times are had by all in the height of the decadent 1920s era, when Art Deco was in vogue, the music was hopping, the Charleston was huge, the women were flappers, every man wore a hat, alcohol was illegal, bootlegged whiskey was everywhere, and the desire to have a good time and not worry about the rest of the world was at a premium. It is interesting to attempt to describe the scene in the fictional dance hall I created for the reception, but in real life my great-grandfather owned a dance hall in the 20s, called the Nu-Joy, and some documents exist in which he describes some of what it was like, so I have had some help in trying to bring it to life.

I know how I want Chapter 1 to end, but after that, I really have no idea where I want to go with the story except in the most broad terms. I think that Chapter 2 will find Walter and Greta taking a journey to French Lick, Indiana, where they will spend their honeymoon in an expensive hotel and spa that is still located there, far south in the State of Indiana. We will also have to get a little bit about their upbringing and their personal pasts, but I don't know how I am going to work that in. Walter and Greta will be briefly exposed to the sort of life that they will never really get to lead, one of wealth and indulgence. It will contain some of the first seeds of the struggle that will grip Walter for the rest of his life, the quest to earn a good living and the balance to strike between making enough money to protect your family and not getting caught up in the jaws of temptation and greed.

The first portion of this novel, the 1920s years, will hopefully expand on that theme, as Walter will see what effects the pursuit of money/wealth/power has on the people he knows, his father in law, his brother in law, his wife's classmate and former suitor, and himself. Then, if all goes according to plan, the second portion of the novel will hit: the Depression. But by then, I think, Walter will already have drawn some conclusions, which the Depression, such as it was, will only reinforce.

More to come.

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