Crashing through to Thanksgiving

Canadian Thanksgiving is coming — a big, glorious dinner for over twenty friends and family at our house — and then we begin our winter transition to Mexico.

It’s not easy moving an office back and forth. Or rather, I should say: it’s not easy for a historical novelist.

I’ve begun to give thought to which reference books to take with me. I’ve a stack of books I brought back with me from Mexico in the spring — still untouched.

How many will I really need? The Net (Books Google), and the fact that many books are now available to me on iPad, have changed the way I research. Even so, I will inevitably take a small suitcase—a very heavy small suitcase—filled with notes, papers and books. I do it every year, and every year the decisions about what stays and what goes torments me.

But the main thing I must do — before next weekend, I pray — is finish draft 5.2 of The Next Novel. I will print it out in Mexico, and read/edit it there. And then — by grace of the muses — I plan to have it ready to send to my agent, Jackie Kaiser, by the end of October.

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute: I think often of the title of Grace Paley’s novel, for it seems to capture my writing process (every time). I’ve a main character gradually, ever so gradually, coming into focus. I’ve entire chapters that need to be created to fill gaping holes in the reconstruction. The change from 3rd person to 1st not long ago seems easy by comparison.

In moaning to my writers’ group, poet Jenifer McVaugh said, “You’ve got everything. You’re just missing the heart of the story.”

Exactly. That’s what the process of writing a novel is about: finding the (damned) heart of the story. And it never, at least for me, seems to come early on.

Novelists out there: what is your process? Is there any way to avoid this somewhat frantic scramble?

And one more question: What do you think of the title This Bright Darkness?

{Image above: view from my office window.}