Spanish moss for my bed

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I’ve taken myself on another writing retreat, this time to New Orleans—what better place to buckle down and get things done?

This is my tenth visit to this magical city and a few chapters of Book take place here. Cool, creepy chapters, if I may be so bold.

My goal is to finish Second Draft and based on the work I did today, I think I will be able to. Right now I’m just revising my way toward the Nola chapters, which I hope to get to by Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Tuesday. Or Wednesday.

Second drafts are quirky beasts, it turns out. In some ways less daunting than the first, for obvious enough reasons, and in some ways more so—because in the second draft you’ve no choice but to “kill your darlings”, as either Allen Ginsberg or William Faulkner offered as writing advice. In other words, you have to delete some of what you wrote long ago and grew attached to. Some of the self-indulgent stuff (TJ – this is good advice for OGTAY) that you needed to write in the first place to exercise and exorcise your memories and experiences. As mine is a ghost story, I’m killing off my darlings both literally and metaphorically.

I have been up since 5AM—4AM Nola time—and I am fading. Will get a second wind because tonight I’m taking my dear friend/host to dinner for his birthday. Belatedly. But I tell you this because I don’t think I’m writing as well as I could be right now. Which is why I stopped revising Draft and decided to write in blahhhhhhhhgggggggg.

I asked my writing coach to give me the logline/elevator pitch/other-term-for-it for my project and she said, “It’s a literary ghost story set in a restaurant in New York in 1999.” The good news is, that’s fairly close to the loglinelevatorpitch I’d been offering. The good good false-sense-of-security news is that she called it “literary”. I’m not sure how literary it is. It’s character-driven, which is allegedly a mark of literary fiction, but so are long, elaborate descriptions of places and works with minimal dialogue and other things that this is not.

The second draft is weird because, while you’re not necessarily close to the finish line, you’re aware of it. When I worked at Random House and wrote for Bold Type, our literary magazine at the time, I interviewed authors. One of the questions I asked frequently was, “How did you know when your novel was done?” Turns out you can’t know. You have to decide. And you have to accept the fact that, should you ever re-read your work, you will find much room for improvement.

Earlier I heard some scuttling in the walls. At first I thought, “Mice?” Then I remembered where I am and realized, “Gators.”

Laissez les bons temps rouler, friends.

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