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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

The Writing Life: notes on a new novel

I noted on my FB page that my latest novel, WHAT BEAUTY, was soon to be in galley pages, and this was a good time to get that story out of my system. The best way to begin that process is to start working through my notes on the next novel, its working title “Max the Blind Guy.”

Max and Greta, after 40 years of marriage, are still together, but have had their problems. This is the crux, the linchpin, the beauty, and the utter horror of their story. How could they possibly still be together after all that has happened? I guess I’ll learn that myself, when I finish the novel in another 3 years or so.

The beginning of any project for me is one that finds me writing notes of variable length: two sentences of dialogue; an image for a scene (say the flattened grass beneath a pear tree after outdoor sex); the name of a character and where he/she went to school, what was studied, and why. When one of my rotating notebooks (one for home, one for “out of the house”) becomes fat with notes, it’s time for me to transfer that writing into the computer.

This is as much for safety (archiving) as it is a chance to do some editing/re-writing, and seeing more of the story or characters, and building scenes that I hadn’t yet thought existed (because they hadn’t; only while looking through the notebook do I make further discoveries).

This, in a nutshell, is my writing method, these days, when beginning a new project. Only after six month or so, maybe sooner if the narrative arc and a sense of the story’s continuity is solidly in my mind, will I begin to shuffle these scenes into shape, some order, a timeline, a scene progression. When that sense of the story is available to me, that’s when I can “begin writing” … from the beginning.

Until that time, I’ll simply let my mind wander in all the possibilities of Max and Greta.

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