Wednesday, February 17, 2010

And Here Comes the Self-Doubt

I dropped off Altar with my thesis reader today. Walking away from her office, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. I got the draft done, and it's a good, solid draft. When I finished the first draft last March, I knew there was a lot more I wanted to explore with this story. It wasn't complete to me (despite the fact that my professor insisted I send it to her agent, I knew it wasn't ready to go out into the world. Had she agreed to represent me, I would have been thrilled, but I also would have felt as if I hadn't served my characters well enough). Now the story feels complete. But now, too, my focus needs to shift from the story to the storytelling.

And here's where the self-doubt started creeping in even as I was walking away from her office.

Is the story good? Or have I worked too hard to give it forward movement, increasing levels of complications, and raised the stakes to unrealistic levels? Does it become too plot driven in the last part of the book?

I am worried there are too many moments where I have my characters go somewhere just so something can happen to them, too many times where I haven't found the delineating detail, thin spots when the narrative dissolves into stage directions and moving the furniture around.

I am also worried that I have overthought my inter-sections, those moments when the narrative becomes about history or death to deepen some of the underlying themes of the piece - I worry that these are too obvious a device and should be woven into the narrative more seamlessly.

My biggest concern is that I have strained the narrative in some way by pushing it to completion in order to meet the deadline, that I didn't let the next moment in the book surface in an organic way, and that intellectual decision-making will show and weaken the storytelling.

All these things, sitting in my head. So I've spent the day just surfing around on the web, letting things come up by chance, not even thinking about what I'm doing, just killing time. I've found some fun links - like a great performance by two FAO Schwartz employees on the big piano that leaves the scene in Big in the dust ( And, in the course of noddling around, I have started to come across things that could be useful - like the family tree of the Greek Gods, which has led me to looking up Thanatos, the grandson of Chaos, child of Night (Nyx) and Darkness (Erebus), and twin brother of Hypnos (Sleep). Good stuff, that. And that's led me to looking up Thanatos and coming across a really great site about grieving and...well, it's the serendipitous finding of information I didn't have time for while I was working to deadline coming back again.

So I guess I'll be gearing up for the third round of revisions. Which I knew I would be doing before I start querying agents. And which I want to be doing because I want the storytelling to be as good as my story.

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