WRITE NOW NEWSLETTER – NOVEMBER 2006
“The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say.”
– Mark Twain’s Notebook, 1902-1903
First, the good news. The semester’s over. Aimee Liu, my Advisor in the Goddard College low-residency MFA program in Creative Writing, accepted the second draft of my second attempt at a short critical paper (my first attempt she rejected offhand). She also approved the eleven annotations I wrote on the (more than eleven) books I read. I’m allowed to go back to Port Townsend, WA for the next 8-day residency in February. In the meantime, I can relax – sort of.
This leads me to the bad news. The book’s not done. And it looks like it’s not going to be done for awhile.
I started writing the book during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November of 2004 and hoped to complete it within 9 months. Those initial 50,000 words flowed so effortlessly. I had no doubt the rest of the book would follow in the same manner. But then came the gargantuan task of rereading, editing and expanding those original 50,000 words. Even NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month) in March 2005 didn’t help.
So I did what every aspiring American writer would do. I took a class. Or rather, I took another class. In fact, I took two more classes before applying to graduate school. In these courses I learned about dramatic tension, pacing, dialogue, characterization, and plot. They showed me how to weave several stories together to make a book have more depth. They gave me a structure and support to help me pull together a complete first draft. And that’s what I brought to the MFA program – in the words of Anne LaMott, “a shitty first draft.”
From the folks at Goddard (and especially Aimee Liu), I’ve learned to go deeper and to push myself harder. Aimee asked me tough questions like, “Why should we care?” and “Who are these people?” and “Why did you do what you did?” She poked, prodded and interrogated, not allowing me to gloss over anything. As a result, my second draft is much less “shitty” than before. But it’s not done.
The moral of this story (for mustn’t all stories have a moral?) is that a book has it’s own time line. This is my first book and it will take all the time it takes. I’ve tried to move it along more quickly, but I can only write at the level where I am. Perhaps I’m lucky an editor isn’t (yet) emailing me daily asking for the next draft. This way the book can mature as I do. And when it’s done, it will be my best work – the best I can produce at the time.
Nita(read no line before its time)Sweeney
Â©Nita Sweeney, 2006, all rights reserved