Today I took my How Home Improvement Saved My Marriage manuscript up to the attic and stuck it in a box with other things I don't want cluttering up my life right now. Lately, I've been in a very foul mood toward my novel and my inability to get anywhere with it, and today I decided I just wasn't going to fool with it anymore.
My novel is flawed. Profoundly and maddeningly flawed. The beginning lacks momentum. It lacks bite. Alex, the narrator, doesn't sound like anybody I'd want to hang out with for 200 plus pages. Partly that is due to point of entry problems. The beginning of my book was once funny as hell, with snappy dialogue galore, but that was before I realized that while it was highly entertaining writing, the plot was languishing under all that talking. So I cut, and I cut, and I cut some more. I killed darlings right and left. And then I killed some more. And I reached what I thought was the perfect point of entry. But no matter what I did, the book could just not pick up any steam at that point. It went mwah mwah mwaaaaah from the get go. So I mulled, and I reconsidered. No, there was no other place to start. The book sucked. It would always suck. It was a stupid idea. I wasn't meant to write it. It was hopeless. I was done.
And then I fell in love with Nicholas Sparks. Well, sort of. In a purely platonic, writerly sense. The local news has been interviewing him a lot recently because he just released a new book and he once lived in Greenville--he was living right down the road, in fact, when he finished The Notebook. He was going on about how he had a soft spot for Greenville (he doesn't live here anymore) and talked some about his writing process, and it was interesting, and I listened to it, fascinated, and then promptly forgot the whole thing. And I was paying absolutely no attention whatsoever to my Netflix queue, and lo and behold, I got The Notebook the next day.
"Oh, shit," I remember thinking. "I am so not in the mood for a love story right now." But I watched it anyway. And I wept buckets and buckets of tears, just like everybody else has who's seen the movie. And then I watched his commentary in the special features, and then I google-stalked him all over the internet because of my
newfound writer-crush on him.
He said something interesting in one of his interviews. He has two novels, stashed in his attic that will NEVER see the light of day. They were the two he wrote before The Notebook, and by his own admission, they are flawed.
This is what I was thinking about when I hauled my gigantic white binder full of rough-draft novel up the attic stairs. And as I dumped it unceremoniously in a Rubbermaid container full of books, and jammed the lid on it, and then resolutely turned off the attic light, I was thinking to myself, "These are all appropriate metaphors for how I feel about you. You suck. It was nice while it lasted, but good-bye forever."
And I had not made it down even two rungs of the attic ladder before I was hearing Alex's voice (muffled by the Rubbermaid container lid, but clearly Alex, nonetheless) and she said, "You want to put an offer on this house?" I asked my husband Will, who up til now had always seemed like a perfectly rational individual. And suddenly, my whole novel was re-organizing itself in my head. Here was the perfect point of entry. Here was the set up for funny dialogue. Here was a girl I could spend an afternoon with.
"You bitch," I cursed, as I climbed down into the laundry room. "Where the hell have you been? It might have occurred to you to tell me this nine months ago when I was begging for your help."
"I just thought of it," said Alex. "And Will is going to respond, 'Sure. What's not to like?'"
And then Ivy Garren appeared. "What about me?" she said. "What about my book? You're going to go off with her, aren't you? You're going to re-write her book!"
I hate it when this happens.