Tuesday, June 3, 2008


What a relief to have cleared much of my to-do list and face writing for the next couple of weeks. I start a workshop at the end of this week called Novel Boot Camp, and I look forward to being a student again, and to coming out of this two-weekend intensive with a good start on a book that has long defied my ability to finish it. I think that's because I've started with a thin idea and put a great many other projects ahead of it. The original nugget came to me at least seven years ago. Maybe my subconscious has worked out the problems. The story line will be speculative, to say the least, but that seems to be where I do my favorite work. As I survey the fiction that I have finished, the stories I like best are a result of a big, bizarre what if--aliens invade a church sanctuary, a young girl reverts to a past life persona, a deluded woman kills herself when she thinks she's poisoning her "husband" who does not exist. That sort of thing.

It took lots of words on screen and on paper to see that this is my thing. Amy Tan has her Chinese-American family focus, Louise Erdritch a tribal focus, Tom Robbins a carnival of words and images overlaying big ideas, etc. Finally, I see my own. This, of course, leaves me mourning those bits that don't fit the category, some good pieces that would disappoint the expectations of a reader--blessed be the day--who has come to expect a certain weirdness from me. Of course, my long-time favorite writer is John Fowles, a man not afraid to vary his focus, from the bizarre and convoluted Magus to the straight forward mystery of The Collector to the historical romance of The French Lieutenant's Woman. Maybe Emerson is right, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." The key here is that word foolish. Wisdom is knowing when to step off the path and strike out for the badlands. Now that I have figured out my own deal, I'll at least know when I've left it behind.

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