This is the…

This is the restructuring draft, in theory. When I first drafted this memoir, I wrote it as two separate threads, juxtaposed. On the one hand, there was the month Karina and I travelled in Sri Lanka. And then the other, told in alternating chapters with the first, was a memoir of my childhood, college, etc. -- basically, the story of my life.

That started feeling both artificial and choppy, so the main thing I've been doing in this draft is more concretely centering it on the trip, with all the bio material intercut into the chapters, as organically as possible. This event in Sri Lanka connects to this thing over here in my life. It's still somewhat artificial, since mostly the story of my life is chronological. But I think it basically works.

All of that is making is easier to manage the three thematic threads: nationality, romantic love (poly or otherwise), and writing. The last is still underdeveloped, but I think that's okay, since I'm just now (about 40K words in) getting to the point in my chronological life when I started trying to write. I'm hoping that'll lead naturally into a discussion of some of the issues I'd like to raise.

The main concern I have right now is that I've been showing this to people, and some of what's come back to me is that they really like some bits -- and those bits are mostly the very new bits I've just drafted. Which on the one hand is good -- I'm writing good stuff, right now! And on the other's making me feel like maybe in the next (third) draft, I might need to totally rewrite all the old stuff. Not structurally, but on a prose level.

That is a lot of work. For short stories, I usually do retype them once, reading them out loud as I go, fine-tuning the language. But this is a book. It would be pretty labor intensive to do that.

I think I'm just being lazy, though. It's one of the humbling things about being at Ragdale, hanging out with the visual artists. Because I can see Mike painstakingly cutting out these human figures, with an Xacto knife on a cutting mat, each one slightly bigger than but otherwise identical to the last. He's going to do interesting things with them, but what strikes me right now is that he's not afraid of the labor of it. The somewhat mindless drudgery and exactitude that is also part of making art.

Maybe I will have to read my whole book out loud. Maybe I will have to type it. Maybe that will be okay.

2 thoughts on “This is the…”

  1. I went through 20-30 drafts of every chapter of my book. It seems incredible to me now, and somewhat insane, but really I couldn’t have let it go any other way. And it got way better every single time. I’m judging a literary prize now, reading back to back fiction, and I *really* wish some of these authors had gone through their book at the finetuning-the-language level a couple more times. The comparison with visual artists (musicians, etc) is a good one. It can be exciting to get fast about writing, especially when kicking out those early drafts (yay word count! thousands! tens of thousands!). And all of us do so much casual writing, blogging, emails, whatever, that it’s easy to get a bit casual about it, I think. But a book is not a tweet 🙂 … I’m so happy you have the time to sink it to your writing right now. It’s making me remember what is so fantastic about a residency, and long for some residency time myself!

  2. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    I did ten formal drafts of Bodies in Motion, although in truth, some paragraphs were worked over far more than ten times. 🙂

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