I had to write a self-evaluation for my Fiction class; in lieu of a real journal entry, I offer it to you. I've also sent out two new stories, "Alan's Story" and "Minh-Ha's Story" (totally different from the version you saw before) to the first readers list.
Well, work on the book progresses apace. I've done some revisions on the interludes and on Johnny's Story and Steve's Story. I think they're pretty finished, which is satisfying. I decided to take out the original Minh-Ha's Story, which was a scary decision, but I think the right one. I'm not sure if I can explain it properly, but the best I can do is that the interludes so far have been mostly autobiographical, whereas the actual stories have been pretty much purely fictional, and somehow that feels right. The original Minh-Ha's Story (the one with the girl talking at her mother) felt too argumentative, too personal, too autobiographical. It was distracting, and unbalanced the rest of the work. Taking it out felt much better. I also decided to remove the Mickey interlude -- that whole section had the wrong tone for this part of the book. Perhaps I'll use those two pieces elsewhere -- I'm not unhappy with them as pieces; they just didn't balance right. I recently managed to write two new stories; one is the replacement Minh-Ha's Story, which I'm much happier with. It feels right. Another is Alan's Story, which along with the now-finished Ramesh's Story makes five. Something aesthetic in me is calling out for seven total, but right now I only have one more, Laney's Story, left to write, and maybe I'll stop there. I'm guessing Part I will then be about 40 pages. I've been having trouble coming up with something for Laney's Story -- maybe because it's the last one, I feel like it needs to be really perfect, really complete. A synthesis, perhaps, of Part I? I'm not sure. I'm hesitant, but hopeful that I can finish it over the break.
Listening to Carole Maso gave me some ideas for Part II. For some reason, I've recently started envisioning the book in three parts, though at 11000 words currently, it's more like a fifth done. The first section feels to me as if it deals with really pivotal moments in the stories. Pivotal moments for the characters, that is -- moments where perhaps they realized something important about themselves and their desires. Those moments have been largely joyful, although Steve's was more bittersweet. (I'm concerned about Steve's section, actually; some people find it romantic/touching/powerful, but others find him merely pathetic. I'm not aiming for pathetic. I don't think he's pathetic. I'm not sure what to do about that.) I think in Part II we'll move more towards pain. I'm also interested in dialogue here. At times I think I'll have a series of dialogues between the narrator and these others -- yet that seems difficult to maintain for an entire section. Perhaps more alternations; dialogue/story/dialogue/story and so on. I'm thinking now about what the dialogues should be about; sexuality? desire? love? Should they be about anything? Not sure. This is all feeling still somewhat amorphous, yet I'm not panicked anymore. I think somewhere in the back of my head this is all jelling.
I have written various other bobbles and snippets in the second part of this semester, but nothing important. The only really significant thing I've done otherwise is revise "Interruptions" (motivated by application for the Stegner Fellowship). I'm happy with it, or happier, I think. Sometimes I feel that I won't be finished with that story for another fifteen or twenty years. Perspective lacking. The mother is still not sympathetic enough, or the boyfriend character, though I think both are better. The class's advice to cut the conference scene was right on target, I think, and I'm pretty sure the new dispersal of that information works much better.
On the whole, I'm really pleased with how my writing has progressed this semester. I'm falling in love with my new book, and the people who populate it.