It’s National Novel Writing Month – called NaNoWriMo in the hippest of literary circles – and I’m writing a novel at warp speed. Which is another way of saying that I’m making as much progress with the book as I am with this blog.
My plan is to rewrite (read: completely overhaul) a 650-page novel I finished 4 years ago. It’s a first-person story about one woman’s mourning, guilt, and redemption after the death of her husband in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Sounds heavy, right? Well, the story’s chock full of black humor, which lightens the load somewhat.
So if I finished a novel 4 years ago, why am I rebuilding it in its entirety? Here’s my deal. Four years ago, I shipped the completed manuscript to my editor. He called me a couple days later. An interpretative (loose) transcript of our conversation appears below.
Editor: I just finished reading the first seven chapters of your novel.
[uncomfortable period of silence]
Editor: What I’m trying to say is that I stopped reading after the seventh chapter. I’m not sure it makes sense for me to continue reading the remaining fifteen chapters.
[period of silence even less comfortable than the first]
Carolyn: So the novel has some issues then?
Editor: It has some issues, yes. Or many issues. If I had to pick between “some” and “many,” I’d probably run with “many.” The structure’s problematic. As are the three narrators. And all the other characters. And then there’s this 650-page gaping hole where the novel’s plot should be.
[period of silence during which Carolyn blacks out only to be awakened by her editor’s soothing grumble on the other end of the phone]
Editor: Hello? You still there?
[Carolyn takes her pulse and confirms that she is, in fact, still breathing]
Carolyn: I’m here.
Editor: See, the novel’s characters seem to flit about and have random discussions, which I found both amusing and confusing. I was left wondering what’s happening and why. What’s your protagonist’s motivation? Where’s the action? Where’s the plot?
Carolyn: Have you considered the possibility that I’m breaking new ground here, that my plotless writing style makes me a Che Guevara-style rebel wordsmith? A hyper-talented innovator? The voice of my generation?
[period of silence so uncomfortable that the phone, emotionally wrought by overhearing the conversation its own cellular technology has enabled, drops from three bars to zero and dies]
Editor [via email 10 minutes later]: In a nutshell, your novel really needs a plot.
Carolyn: Roger that.
**It’s 4 years later, and I’m rocking out the new novel. Hoping to hit 30,000 NEW words this month. Will I do it? Stay tuned.**