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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

The Writing Life: a new novel

This afternoon I found myself looking over more than a half dozen piles of printed pages lying atop my bed. Not strewn, but in neat-enough piles. Their cover pages hold such titles (written in colored pencil) as “Vienna” and “Prague” and “Narrative Arc” and “O, Though I Walk Through the Valley of Death….” Together, these piles make up some 100 possible scenes for my new project, a novel tentatively titled and loosely outlined (a strong narrative arc, for now, these first weeks of teasing out the story, all of which need a writer’s engineering to connect the various bridge spans).

To say that my excitement — and trepidation — claws at me, would be an understatement.

In this state and at that moment I realized that, three years ago, I had stood in just this same position (though a few blocks away) as I had begun another novel, whose idea was put together in much the same way, as piles of loosely based notes and sketched-out scenes and vivid characters vs. vague characters. And all kinds of possibilities.

That project turned into “What Beauty” which came out exactly one month ago. Sales are okay, thanks for asking (with one nice review). What I didn’t know about that novel, three years ago (including its title), was how soon I would get from the notes to the last (5th) draft. I didn’t think about that. I didn’t know how I would write the press releases, or the galley letter. I hadn’t thought about the cover, or about the reviewers who would get a copy.

I simply began to organize the notes into a general chronological order. It was the second time I used my “Stepping Stone” method of organizing a story and the work that would consume my life, and my mind, for the next 2 1/2 years.

When I realized this afternoon that another project as daugnting as the last sat before me, I breathed deeply and, as I exhaled, a chuckle became a laugh. “This writing stuff is hard work,” is what that laugh told me. “Time to have fun; get busy.”

It’s good to work, to take a sustained time for a walk through a fictional world that is of your making, with people you’ve chosen out of all the others you found and — with luck — can use in some other story; but not this story. And while I don’t plan on “how long” a project shall take, I know that the time will be productive, frustrating, not-enough-or-too-much, and well spent, and worth the effort for the next three or four or ….

Don’t think, Mark — write and think.


What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

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