Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Five Stages of Writing

You had progressed through all five of the Kubler-Ross stages, enjoying anger and denial so much that you revisited them for second helpings. Then, on November 25, 2008, more from enthusiasm than either resignation or acceptance, you launched forth to recreate what had been so utterly and completely lost.

The first entry was act, which you had defined in a format you would follow all the way through until yesterday, August 10 of 2009. Then came examples and opinions, the voice supplying itself, coming forth in a way that surprised you given the amount of time you'd spent looking for it and, you thought, finding it, and beginning a project you knew for some time as The Fiction Writers' Tool Kit. The project was begun back B.C., which in this case meant before cancer, back when there were a sheaf of unfinished short stories wagging fingers of reproof at you, reminding you in metaphor of Sally wanting to get out the back door to pee or chase a rabbit or coyote, and getting no response from you. You had perhaps a hundred or more entries, definitions sketched out, some of them revised.

In spite of having a back-up drive and any number of CDs with the text burned on them, the whole project somehow disappeared, was not where you thought it would be or, indeed, where it ought to be. You pawed through the old Toshiba and the more recent Acer, thinking surely to find the files there. But no. Gone. Vanished. Aloha, Dr. Kubler-Ross.

You reminded yourself of the stories you'd heard of the lost manuscripts of writers who, like you, lived on the edge of disarray and disorder, remembered past times of pushing deadlines up to the eleventh hour and later. Deadly Dolly, for instance, agreed to over a dinner in which the publisher poured too much wine and in mitigation wrote checks with too few zeros, was done and revised in one week, the last check financing a riotous fling in San Francisco in which a cocktail waitress at a bistro called The Hotsy Totsy played a considerable part, supported by close chums including a concert-level pianist who flew combat missions in Korea, the owner of a Green Street saloon, and a famed lawyer who loved to steal silverware from New York hotels.

This project was not to be done in all-night sessions of youthful exuberance; this project was to be done with daily immersion in the depth of the project, its voice and its connective tissue, bringing together things that were not previously thought to be brought together. Beat came next, beat as in a dramatic movement. Then block, as in determine where everyone was in every scene. By this point the conflation of the dramatic, the stage, and the page was established and acknowledged. The voice and dramatic overview were set in motion and were, in fact, talking to you. All you had to do was listen. You did.

The subtitle can now read: Over 350 words, terms, and concepts to help you write better stories.

The words, terms, and concepts are cross-referenced. All but six of the terms have been revised, the preface is written, and the individual you want to introduce the work is well known to you and will likely agree to do it.

You already know the publisher you want for the project, and you'd thought to have a proposal ready to send them for their next reading period, which begins 1 September, except not this year; this year, they are moving and will not be reading until January, so the next logical thing to do is send it forth to Angela, tell her your preference, then let her do her work while you put together a proposal that will help her do her work. At which point, you are thinking the two short stories that have tapped you on the shoulder, then on to the next book project, which would seem to be an enormous statement of hubris on your part were the project not motivated by enthusiasm and admiration in enough measure to trump hubris and allow it to stand merely for the enthusiasm it embodies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lost manuscripts and starting over: you have my heartfelt sympathy. I agree: enthusiasm for a new or revitalized project is the only way out. Plus a friendly reminder or two to Ganesha and a huge supply of expletives - the stronger, the better.

P.S. If a touch of hubris helps, I say go for it. Hubris always got a worse rap than it deserved, simply because the gods are a jealous lot tending toward right-wing politics.