Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

Back Again

At first, I wasn't sure whether I'd actually make good on my promise to myself to kick the lj habit for three weeks in the interest of protecting my writing time. It wasn't all that hard to stay away, since the writing was going pretty well, but coming back's kind of daunting. Reverse chronology is not my friend.

For example, I scroll down to see what's been going on with my friends and find one of them talking about the difficulty of filing a police report. I scroll down frantically past everybody else's musings for March, looking to see how her ex-husband has extended his repertoire from the merely vile to the outright criminal. I berate myself for being an absentee friend--why didn't she feel she could call me about whatever it was that happened? I start making plans to track down the ex-husband and set him on fire, and then I find...that some random identity thief swiped her debit card number without her even noticing, but now everything's fine. Nope, not finding reverse chronology to be easy on the brain.

So if anything big has happened to you since the beginning of the month, please have mercy, and tell me here in comments.

Meanwhile, how's the writing going? It's wonderful and excruciating. I just finished roughing out a chapter that concentrated entirely on the kinds of events I find hardest to write. Choreographing violent clashes of hundreds of people is really, really hard. Strangely enough, nobody in respectable MFA programs in creative writing thinks it's important to teach students how to write epic battle scenes with militarily plausible uses of magic. (I wish I could say that shortcoming in the curriculum was why I left Hopkins, but I'm just not that cool.) I'm pretty sure my new chapter's still a long way from right, but hey, in the last draft, I just put that whole sequence of events off-stage and hoped nobody would notice. I was trying not to notice, myself.

So the middle only needs a little more filling in, and the whole draft in its current form has gone on to a friend who specializes in revising for compression. In our dissertation working group, we called her Breva the Axe. She's been looking to get her hands on the manuscript for months, and now her workload has finally lightened enough that she can take a look at it. Were I pretentious enough to live up to my username, I'd blather on about Ezra Pound marking up manuscripts for T.S. Eliot, but that's not what I think about at all. I keep thinking of that old Warner Brothers cartoon, the one in which we learn that an interesting monster should have an interesting hairdo. By the time Breva's done, she may hand me back a haiku.

The old dissertation demons have been chattering. The book's not done yet, so I must not be writing fast enough. Editors aren't lined up around the block asking for it, so it must not be good enough yet. I'm not yet engaging in a profitable livelihood, so I must be a person of deficient virtue. Etc. And yet, again and again, the ghost of the dissertation rescues the novel. From time to time, I notice how hard I'm actually working, and how unwelcome any unsolicited manuscript by any unknown writer is in the marketplace, let alone a long manuscript, and the thought comes to me: This is why normal people quit. This is why almost everyone quits. This is the moment when any sensible person would quit. Wouldn't it be easier to quit? But the dissertation taught me how to persist to the end, even in the absolute absence of hope, and I wouldn't know how to quit anymore if I wanted to.

How could I want to? It's High Flowering Festival in Beltresa, and the usual suspects are looking for trouble. I can't wait to see exactly how it plays out.
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