I am sitting in the den in my house where I’ve been sitting almost all day with students. Cars are zipping by out front, not as many as in the height of the day, but still a regular flow of them. The dogs are upstairs with Ray, no doubt snuggled on the bed, sleeping while he watches television. He is waiting for me to come up so we can watch Foyle’s War, one of our favorite BBC offerings, which I have written about and recommended on my blog in the past.
I have no great thoughts, incidents or moments of clarity to share this evening. In fact, I am fairly blank as to a topic. I’ve decided to put in my writing time and see what comes up. Writing my blog is part of my nightly writing discipline so here I am, with or without much to say.
I started re-reading the book I wrote several years ago about our family coming to LA to help my brother Jim as he was dying of AIDS. I worked hard on that book – workshopped the entire thing in John Rechy’s Master Class over several years. I submitted it to several agents when it was done and had a round of “No, not interested” responses. I had fictionalized the story per John’s guidance and, I believe, lost the book’s primary focus at the end. (No one’s fault but my own.) While at the SCN conference, I talked to Linda Joy Myers about my book and explained what I thought had happened. She suggested I revert it to memoir and put the ending in that really happened. I felt good about that talk and have resolved to do just that. I came home and discussed it with my writing friend Michael and my small writing group. They concurred.
What is a surprise is now that I am re-reading the book, I am struck with how strong it is. I thought it was horrible – shallow and hardly worth reading at the time – and now I read it and think, “Okay, there’s some editing issues here and there, but overall, this is a good story.” I haven’t read all the way through and I may find myself not feeling so good as I get deeper into the book, but I can say the first third is reading pretty damn well. That is heartening.
Why, you might ask, do I need to resurrect this book after several years? The answer is that I did the work and need to move on to the next step with this project, whatever that next step is. Whether that is putting it on my blog in installments or creating an ebook or self-publishing it in hard copy or sending it back out to another round of agents, I don’t quite know. But I do know I need to do something. I need to do this so I can progress in my writer’s knowledge, demonstrate that I have done this hard work, have something to show for all my time besides a manuscript stuck in a bottom drawer of a desk. In other words, so I can get on with my life.
I am halfway through another book – a novel – and I do not want to derail myself in the writing of that story, but I know I must shift for a bit and get this other book back to a state that will feel right. I must rewrite the ending – or rather return to the real ending that I wrote and then discarded in favor of fiction – because I have been driven from the beginning to tell this story of my brother, who lost his soul to money and eventually rediscovered his humanity just before he died. That is an important story to me because it is about the transformative power of love.
You see I can get wound up when I start writing about it.
So, here I am now with lots of words on the page when I wasn’t sure I would have any. This is one of the reasons I love writing. I am often pleasantly surprised by what appears on the page.
My goal is to have this first book finished with a clear plan in mind by the end of the summer. We’ll see if that’s possible. I am hoping that is more time than I’ll need. I guess we’ll see how the other 2/3s of the book reads.
I hope you all are having a great evening filled with good stories, whether on television, in books, with friends, or in your imagination.
I’ll be checking back in with you again tomorrow.
Until then, stay well.