Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Journal of a "Novel"-Entry 26

Chapter 2 Gets a Name, Nears Completion

Here is a small update for all those millions of interested readers on the progress of my novel. The drafting of the second chapter is coming to a close. I still have two more 'scenes' to write and one of them is pretty critical (I don't know if any piece of the book, really, is any less critical than any other). But I know what both of these 'scenes' will consist of and I know, more or less, what I want to accomplish in them. Then the chapter will be printed, edited, revised, rewritten, and printed again to repeat the cycle. So far I have been going through about 3 drafts of each chapter (I consider the Prologue to be a chapter, more or less) before moving on to the next one. It's probably not enough, but it's a compromise: when I used to write longer manuscripts in the past, I would try to get the whole thing down in one long shot before going back and revising the entire thing. But the job of editing and revising the entire thing 3 or 4 times is not appealing to me and hasn't worked well before (note: my story collection "A Son of the Suburbs"). Hence, the new method is to rewrite and revise the chapters 3 times before moving on to another one. More than likely, when I get to the end I will still have to do more rewriting, that seems almost certain. But at least this way I have the feeling that my chapters are somewhere in the neighborhood of where I want them before I move on to the next one.

All that is to say that once I have completed the draft of Chapter 2, it will more than likely be another 6 weeks or so before I put a single word down on Chapter 3. But at least I have finally settled on a title for Chapter 2: "A Premature Death, New Experiences". Hopefully that title will sound interesting enough to some people to entice them to read on after finishing Chapter 1.

How has Chapter 2 turned out? Well, ask me when I finish the next two scenes. But overall, I am happy with it so far. It did not really turn out like I first envisioned it, but that's all right with me. I didn't really have a clear sense of what I wanted to get from it, so I can't be surprised that it's not really what I thought. But I think it accomplishes at least in broad terms what I wanted it to accomplish: it provides a window into Walter and Greta's very early days of marriage; it gives some background about Walter's father Julius; and it begins to position Walter Brogan up against some of the larger negative forces which will continue to work against him for the rest of his life, in some significant ways. That last part of the chapter is not overt; I think only the initial inklings of his struggles can be detected in the chapter, but they are there under the surface, and throughout the rest of the story, hopefully, they will continue to grow in their unfortunate tenacity.

Right now, the thing I am most pleased about with Chapter 2 has nothing to do with the story itself. It has nothing to do with the events of the chapter. It has to do with the creative process. The fact is that around late August, when I was beginning Chapter 2, I only had very vague notions of what I wanted to do in the chapter, as I said before. I knew I wanted to get into Walter Brogan's backstory, which I did. I also wanted to explore some of Walter and Greta's interactions with a wealthier, elitist class of people, which I am doing now. I thought I wanted to get into some of Greta's backstory, but in the end I didn't; that still must happen at some stage, possibly Chapter 3 (see below). The point is: I didn't really have a plan, I didn't know what I wanted to say. But here I am in October, about six weeks or so later, almost finished with the chapter. The writing happens when you sit down and persist with it. I firmly believe I have a story to tell, but it does not write itself and it does not 'work itself out' beforehand in some auto-pilot mental literary process, leaving me only to sit down and 'transcribe' what is already neatly written out in my head. It doesn't work that way. The best thing about Chapter 2 is that for me it is a total vindication of the writing process. I trusted that I could keep the story going if I worked at it. This chapter - although it may not be a good one - is proof that I can do it. Once this is done, I have 3 chapters in the first draft. Before Christmas, I will hopefully be well into a fourth (Chapter 3 of the novel). To me, this is progress. This means my novel is being written. I just have to stick at it. "Persistence pays off", says a writer whose work I deeply admire. I think he's right.

Chapter 3 - A Teaser

Well, don't ask me to give you a name for this chapter yet. It took me forever to get the name for Chapter 2. But I think I have some general ideas about what is going to happen here. The story will skip forward 5 months to November 1924. The election will have just taken place, putting card-carrying Klan member Edward Jackson in the governorship of the State of Indiana. This will be the tipping point for Walter Brogan, who will seek out advice from his father-in-law, P.G. Heinricks, about how he can take action against one of the negative forces that is operating in his life. He will receive sensible advice that he doesn't expect, and events will prove that his father in law knows what he is talking about. Meanwhile, this may be the time when we learn more about Greta, while she and her husband are trying to start a life together while living in the house she at least partially grew up in. Why she left home at 18 to live in Michigan City, away from her parents. How she and Walter came to meet. That sort of thing. Lastly, we will perhaps see some early maneuvers of one Myron Devreaux, the young attorney who once pined for Greta, but has his own ambitions now to keep him occupied.

One thing at a time; got to finish Chapter 2 and get it as close to 'complete' as possible. But it's a lot of fun to flesh out ideas here in this journal, so thanks for coming along.

1 comment:

Duke Altum said...

Well I for one am definitely along for the ride, Mutt... this is great stuff. It's amazing that you have that much of an idea for Chapter 3, considering how you just wrote about how long it took to get Chapter 2 going. Sounds like you have a general, foggy notion of what the chapter might look like when you begin, but then when you sit down to write it, you allow for enough flexibility for the chapter to go in different directions if it feels right. This seems to me (not a novel-writer, but still) to be a wise approach. I am definitely looking forward to Chapter 2. Each entry here confirms a little bit more than this fiction project is not only the most ambitious you've ever taken on, but also that you've achieved, in some ways, more in the early going with this story than you ever have before. That's gotta feel good, and the tone of these posts reveals that you have at least some pride in what you've achieved so far, which in your case I think is an entirely healthy, indeed an important, thing.