I spent most of today revising, yet again, the “outline” of The Next Novel, which I’m now calling The End of Magic. I do love a rainy Sunday: it’s a good excuse to putter in the office all day. I got out for a bit to plant potatoes and peas, but that was pretty much it.
And reading, of course. I’m browsing the books I left out last October, one on the breakfast counter (Pen on Fire), another on the bedside table (John Truby‘s The Anatomy of Story). I finished The Gathering by Anne Enright, and The Shortest Distance Between You and a Published Book by Susan Page, who I know in San Miguel.
I’ve been hearing good things about The Shortest Distance for some time, so I’m happy to have been able to read it, at last. It didn’t disappoint. It’s a very down-to-earth book on getting published — the nuts and bolts of it. I recommend it. I learned some important things from it.
I especially liked the chapter titled “Procrastination” — for obvious reasons! Susan writes about “acedia” (uh-see-dee-uh), the painfully slow movements required to begin a new project or to return to a project after a break. It’s simply part of the creative process. Procrastination is resistance to doing something. Acedia is a slow giving into it, a letting go of resistance. My own feeling is that resistance is the first step in the creative process, and (now that I have this new word) acedia is the second. I’m sort of in-between the two right now.
I’m pleased with my “outline,” but there are things about it that certainly aren’t right. I want to tighten, hone. While it was printing, I picked up Truby’s The Anatomy of Story (peppered with post-it note thoughts about my abandoned novel about La Grande Mademoiselle: my ghost!). I’ve yet to get beyond the second chapter, “Premise,” because it is so dense: there is so much to try to work out: What is the premise of the novel? What are the possibilities? What is the designing principle? What is the conflict? The basic action? The character change? The moral choice?
So Truby’s book is peppered once again with post-it notes, but on The End of Magic. Working through these questions — or rather, trying to work through them I begin to question my entire outline. I’m ready to revise it even as the last page slides out of the printer.
Enough! (For today.)