Sunday, April 3, 2011

Finishing What I've Started

I am working on a manuscript.  I have written 91 pages.  It will eventually be a good middle-grade novel.  I’m almost 100% sure it will sell.

I started this novel over two years ago.  Since that time, I’ve written and sold another manuscript, and written and submitted yet another to my agent.  (She’s still considering it.)  Meanwhile, I cannot finish this particular book (tentatively called Three).  It’s driving me crazy.

Part of the reason is that it’s a story about three kids—two girls and a boy—and different chapters are told from different points of view.  I have a hard time juggling that.  I have to remember obscure details about each character, and the longer I take to finish the book, the harder it is to recall them.  Recently, I decided I wanted to make a small change in the boy’s home life.  It took me weeks to incorporate it, and long after I thought I was finished, I kept finding references to the boy’s parents that no longer made any sense.
It is said that all writers have manuscripts in their desks (or on their computers) that were 1) never finished, 2) finished but never sold, and/or 3) abandoned for various reasons.  I have a few of these.  In one, I tried to fictionalize my mother’s experience growing up in an orphanage.  In another, I wrote about a crazy family loosely based on the one into which I was born.  I think I stopped working on these because I realized I would be divulging other people’s secrets.
Family loyalty is a double-edged sword when you’re a writer.

Another reason it’s hard for me to finish Three has to do with the fact that one of the characters is poor.  I spent yesterday working on a scene in which she has to figure out how to make a dinner for herself and her father out of rice and a quarter of a brick of cheese.  I felt a huge responsibility to do justice to the scene without sentimentalizing it.

After I wrote it, I felt sad and weary and spent.  It wasn’t until long after dinner (organic baby greens, roast chicken, root vegetables) that I realized why.
Caring about the characters I’ve created is a good sign.  It means they’re real to me, which usually means they’ll be real to other people.  But knowing that they’re living in dire circumstances makes it hard for me to want to spend time with them.  I find myself stalling: running errands, making phone calls.  Anything to avoid thinking about a kid who has to lie about why she never has enough money to get a smoothie after school with her friends.

So I’m writing here about Three in the hope that I will now feel compelled to finish it.  I will tell myself to woman up.  I will stop whining.  I will get over myself and just do it.

1 comment:

  1. It's the getting over yourself part. When you're over yourself, who are you? All to say that I sympathize.