Wednesday, May 16, 2012

That first awful page

Yesterday was the day I was to start on the fourth Kelly O'Connell novel, tentatively (very tentatively) titled Ghost in a Four-Square. It's always hard for me to start a novel. I'm capable of procrastinating a lot, what I've been doing for several weeks now. This has been a week with an empty slate, so Monday I cleaned my desk of this and that odd chore--a bit of marketing, some personal emails to answer, that sort of thing. And then of course there were Facebook and Pinterest, and oh! I don't know where the day went. But it did. Including  finishing the Claudia Bishop novel, Dread on Arrival, that I was enjoying.
But yesterday, that was the day that I'd begin. But there was one bit of information I needed about the neighborhood where Kelly lives and works as a realtor/rennovator. I had to talk to one woman--or so I told myself (procrastination comes in many forms). I couldn't reach her,so I did other things and had a really restless day, at odds with myself. I knew I was putting off getting that first sentence down.
Finally last night, late, on the spur of the moment, I wrote bout 400 words--not a brilliant start, but I think I'm headed in the right direction. I do have a synopsis, but a lot more complications will have to develop before that synopsis becomes a 70,000-word novel. And it hasn't begun to flow yet, still feels stiff and awkward.
The funniest thing I discovered tonight when I went back to re-read was that I'd written it in the third person. The Kelly O'Connell novels are all first person, and just today a reviewer praised the way I make readers care about Kelly. That of course is due to the first person. In fact, I don't think I've ever written a third person novel--oh, I tried, but then switched back to first person. The classic wisdom is that you write your first novel in the first person and then "graduate." I once asked a book editor good friend what would happen if I never "graduated" and he said, "I'd think Judy Alter has found her voice." So what was I doing in third person? To me, that was an indication I hadn't connected with the story.
I rewrote those 400 words tonight and maybe added another hundred. I'm no farther ahead, and it still doesn't feel right. I think this is the point at which you put your bottom in the chair, keep it there, and get words, any words, on that computer page. But not tonight. It's late. And tomorrow is a dog-training session, right in the middle of what would be work time. Once I get this thing flowing though, I'll use small and odd bits of time well.
Wish me luck!

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