{ Monday, November 18, 2002 }


Upon reading an excerpt of my novel:

"Maybe you should write a play instead. Something with one act."
"Maybe try a short story first?"
"It doesn't matter if it's bad. No one's ever going to read if you don't let them. Just finish it."
"You're not a bad writer. You just don't normally write fiction."
"You have the talent, spend one less hour everyday on the internet and one more hour writing."

All said by the same person. In that order.

The novel. Oh, the novel. I keep it open on my desktop, just waiting for the desire to write it to strike. It's such an undertaking. I haven't written fiction since I was in the sixth grade. And that was one lousy story about talking figurines to appease my teacher (who said my portfolio had to include fiction). I don't think I finished it. I knew it was shit. My teacher basically told me it was shit (even though I already knew). And I think I abandoned it. I don't think I could figure out what the little animals were supposed to be doing. It lacked basic conflict.

It's odd, I remember so much about what my sixth grade teacher said to me about writing. And it has effected me. "Show, don't tell" was her favorite. More dialogue, less statements. If you all could see my novel (which maybe someday you will. who knows), you'd know that I obviously was effected. It's 90% dialogue. My problem with dialogue? I keep not bothering to write the details "he said with anger" "she stated curtly" all that crap.

I'm going to try to do that next. It's bound to up my word count considerably. Some commentary in all the dialogue.

My sixth grade writing teacher also used to chastise me in front of the entire class for my refusal to edit. I obstinately refused to change the structure of my stories. I put the words I wanted to use in there in the first place. I was only interested in cleaning up the grammar, punctuation, maybe paragraph structure. I didn't do rewrites. There was no cutting it up and taping it together on a new piece of paper for me.

I wrote it. I turned it in. Of course I think it's finished. This is why there are editors (and teachers).

"Mary Ann, Do you know that the President rewrites his speeches seven times?"
"He should be more diligent the first time then."

She didn't like that. But I have since embraced some of her rewriting love. Now that everything is done on the computer, it's not as hard to edit. That was another problem we had. I would turn in the piece, she would approve it for typing as a final draft for my portfolio, I would change it in the typing. Then she'd mark me down for changing the final draft. It was just easier to write well on the computer.

But I'm still not one much for editing once it has been "finished" (in my mind). That issue went right up to the little tiny bit of writing I did for my college paper. Didn't like the editing.

Meanwhile, I think the advise about one less hour playing online and one more hour writing is wise.

My problem with fiction is that I can't decide if it's convincing. I can't decide when the rambling needs to stop and the progression of the story needs to start back up. It's really hard to just make shit up. Spouting my opinions? Telling real stories? Both come to me naturally. I remember my first grade teacher holding up my biography of my pet rabbit "Christopher" as the best journal entry anyone in my class wrote all year.
But this fiction thing. I think it's like writing with my left hand. See, I started left handed. Then I mashed my left ring finger in the hinge end of a door. The results were very bad and I still don't have full use of the finger, 19 years later. So, I became a righty. Then I broke my right thumb in kindergarten. After which I was ambidextrous. My third grade teacher made me commit. My left handed writing still looks like it belongs to my third grade self.

Haven't written fiction since sixth grade. So, while I read plenty of fiction, and I know what good is, I feel like I am writing twelve year old fiction here. And it wasn't good for a twelve year old either. I've stunted my growth...

But I am going to keep trying. I feel some sort of strange need to be capable of writing fiction. I can write commentary. I can tell a story that I already know. I just have a hard time with this making stuff up business. I can't write poetry and I don't intend to ever get good at that. You have to accept your limits at a certain point. I'll accept "unable to write decent poetry". I am going to try for "able to write decent fiction". Maybe a novel isn't the place to start, but I have to start somewhere....

I am going to go work on my novel now. I really think I can still pull if off. What? I do.

posted by mary ann 4:09 PM