January 1, 1970
Issue #7 of A Novel in One Semester
by Mary Kay Zuravleff, copyright 2006
Whether you’re in our novel-writing race, watching our progress from the stands, or secretly hoping to see a fiery crash, join our half-time parade. We made it to 20K words this week, and we are halfway through our NOVELS!
Now is not the time to ask if these words will become the book we each hope to write. Right now, process is nearly all. This much writing can only be good for us, and I’m feeling old muscles and new synapses afire.
But it may be time to ask, halfway through what? Writer Scott Berg told us the one about the novel as a series of small explosions on their way to a bigger explosion. My own image is of story as arrow, a short story being one arrow aimed at a bull’s-eye, and the novel a quiver of arrows that ultimately cluster around the target’s center. Halfway through, how many arrows have you got off? Has anything exploded?
Turn It Upside Down
In response to our thoughts on the creative process, we've heard from several visual artists. One described his artistic method as archaeology; after layering on colors and encaustic, he has to discover the painting within. This welcome notion reminded me of advice to writers to go deeper rather than wider.
I posed the question “Where is the painting before it’s a painting?” to Olivia Petrides, who wrote, “It has been my despair that I make it up as I go along, because I want CONTROL! The answers seem to lie within the paint, how it moves or how I accidentally move it—the stuff is so slippery and my mind is so wracked with its own anxious workings that it's a wonder I get any work done at all.”
Seems we're always surprised anew when confusion becomes a force for creativity. As for inspiration, Olivia offered these tips: “I turned the painting upside down this morning and got an idea for a slight restructuring of the image, and I remembered an element of a famous painting that I can rip off. Now I'm started again with some excitement. Can you turn anything upside down?”
We certainly can. We can also dig for buried treasure among the plot and characters fashioned thus far. And we can take a page from famous writers, trying on literary accessories that have long intrigued us. You never know what point of view goes with what purse until you try.
On then, on to 24,000 words!