The Forbidden Forester

57th Trial: It is one thing to finish a novel, and then to start at page one again in an attempt to edit it. I have been reading E.M. Forester and his severe criticism has placed new eyes into my head, which has been a trial in itself. A first draft is as rough as sandpaper, and the same is true for mine. There are times when there is no smoothness between dialogue, description, and characters, and then there are rays of light that bring hope. 

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 14 hr/wk:  thank you quarantine!

Weekly Choice of Tea: Vanilla Bean Tea

Biggest Success: I have completed the first draft of my novel!!!  It is done, and yet I am so far from the end. I am told this is the first step, and quite the accomplishment. However I look at it like I do a pile of bricks on a cement slab:  I have the foundation and the materials to build a house, but I still need to place each brick individually while making the mortar to give it strength and cohesiveness. It is an exciting time, and I have sent it to several people to help me edit. The process has begun!

Book

I would like to begin this blog with a note on the author E.M. Forester, before I delve into all that I learned from his teachings in “Aspects of the Novel.” Reading from the eyes of a critic has been as enjoyable as it has been despairing. He shone a light onto all writers  to reflect their own inabilities; naturally, that is one way of teaching. Personally, what I felt after reading this book was complete reluctance. Looking over the pages of my novel, it seemed as if I have little to actually say, and that I lack a necessary intention in my descriptions. Fear of my potential lack of depth has crept in, thanks to Forester, as well as a fear that I have only accomplished to shy behind the charisma of my characters – that they take the novel to places I could not alone.

But I have begun to read it over, and thankfully made enough edits that it is already sounding better. Yet I cannot say I have not laughed at myself. I have such a love for older literature, and my language can come off so grand and therefore so inappropriate! Some sentences cannot be said without a British accent, or there are interactions that are so prim and proper that they must’ve jumped off of Austen’s page and landed on mine (though without the art). I know I am sounding harsh, but it is only with the accomplishment of the first draft that an editor, even a self-editor, must become cut-throat.

While reading Atwood’s “On Writing” I beamed as a Writer, enjoying the hope and excitement of writing; maybe it was because of her humor. And how every point was drawn in sarcasm or dripped with a type of sticky substance that I couldn’t shake off. But with Forester – with Forester I have grown blue. Oxygen does not circulate in the ice cold reality of true critics. My writing could deem me a great novelist for the sake of novels only, or that it could develop well enough characters with an artist’s stroke, but fail miserably at the overall painting. I had no idea that a writer reverently adored and in the literary canon could be still so debased by a lens held up to their writing. No one worth reading my book will do it without bending forward to see the details that are both distasteful and tasteful, instead of what I hope they do:  sit at a distance and bask in the portrait of it like Monet’s exhibit in Musée de l’Orangerie. But then I think of Monet’s exhibit. And while I liked sitting and sensing the space between me and a wall of water lilies, I also did not love it until I saw the layers of paint that differentiated the corner of a lily pad from the draping leaf of a willow tree, both immersed in water neither above or below me.

While this has been a brutal lesson, it has been a good one. I have crossed the finish line only to create another one, and once that one is crossed, I shall have built more frame of confidence.

E.M. Forester:  “Aspects of a Novel”

lessons

  • “…the novel’s success lies in its own sensitiveness, not in the success of its subject-matter.”
  • “The final test of a novel will be our affection for it, as is the test of our friends…”
  • “The intensely, stiflingly human quality of the novel is not to be avoided; the novel is sogged with humanity…We may hate humanity, but if it exorcised or even purified the novel wilts, little is left but a bunch of words.”
  • “The allegiance to time is imperative:  no novel could be written without it.” He proceeds to give examples of author’s and ways to work with the wall clock:  Emily Bronte hides it, Proust alters its hands, Stein smashes it, and Sterne turns it upside down. Ha!
  • Why love is so prominent in novels:  1. “The constant sensitiveness of characters for each other… has no parallel in life, except among those people who have plenty of leisure.”  2. “He can make it a permanency, and his readers easily acquiesce, because one of the illusions attached to love is that it will be permanent.”
  • Characters in novels are “real not because they are like ourselves (though they may be like us) but because they are convincing… We get from this a reality of a kind we can never get in daily life. For human intercourse, as soon as we look at it for its own sake and not as a social adjunct, is seen to be haunted by a spectre.”
  • “Perfect knowledge is an illusion.”
  • On Characters:  “…if they are given complete freedom they kick the book to pieces, and if they are kept too sternly in check they revenge themselves by dying, and destroy it by intestinal decay.”
  • “A novelist who betrays too much interest in his own method can never be more than interesting.”
  • “Characters must not brood too long, they must not waste time running up and down ladders in the own insides, they must contribute, or high interests will be jeopardized.”
  • “To pot with the plot! Break it up, boil it down.”
  • Melville “has not got that tiresome little receptacle, a conscience, which is often such a nuisance in serious writers and so contracts their effects.”
  • “To most readers of fiction the sensation from a pattern is not intense enough to justify the sacrifices that made it, and their verdict is ‘beautifully done, but not worth doing.”

On Atwood and Writing

56th Trial: Happily I have little to report here, as the gift of gab has seemed to infuse my fingers of late. However, my dog Boo Radley persists in her state of distress with the fact that I am home more, writing at my table, and she is forced to lay toys at my feet that sit there, unobserved by me. She pretends to sit and wait patiently, but then her exhales narrow in her throat and come out as incessant whines. 

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 10-15hr/wk

Weekly Choice of Tea: Peppermint Coffee – I have set aside the power of tea and have continued the holiday-inspired flavor of peppermint coffee that I stocked up on, making the addiction REAL.

Biggest Success: I am in the Home Stretch. Its that exciting anticipation of being on third base, seeing the end with just one more bat at the metaphorical ball. I have not disappointed myself, and have left most things to catch fire on the back burner so that any and all free time have been filled with a hot cup of joe and my pencil. I have a tan notebook that has the black block letters “WRITE” on the front cover, and it is now more demanding than it was inspirational. 

The past few months have not been a struggle. I have felt more like a writer now than I ever have, and it is because I struggled over the past years to build the foundation and the story line, that now it is happily unfolding. I see the scenes play out before I can write them out, and the character’s have their own voice. I had not felt that till now, and realize the development of the story is likening to the development of my own, that both go through the awkward phases only to come out confident and certain, sort of! That in retrospect, something has been accomplished and created. This story is real, and the novel is nearly finished. I am on the last chapter, and my hands pause over this keyboard as I struggle to find the words to express what that even feels like.

It could be completed next week. I could spend the next month polishing it off before I print it out, wrap it in an outlandish bow, and submit it to my freelance editor (who I chose due to her deep affinity for Beyonce and Harry Potter). With the end so near, I hit a milestone that marks the beginning of the next mountain:  editing, agents, and publishing. That alone could take years, and on top of the many years it took me to get this far, I find myself only half way to the finishing line. But who knows, if it turns out to be a “success”, what time will open up for more stories to follow? But please, I get ahead of myself.

As introduced by my last post, I began Margaret Atwood’s book “On Writers and Writing” after reading the instructions of Edith Wharton. My education on the subject continues, and I continue feel the boundaries of a novel and a writer’s playful attention to them.

These are some of the most important take-aways that I marked in her novel “On Writers and Writing” :

  • “A lot of people do have a book in them – that is, they have had an experience that other people might want to read about. But this is not the same as ‘being a writer.’ Or, to put it in a more sinister way:  everyone can dig a hole in a cemetery, but not everyone is a grave-digger.”
  • All writers have a diagnosed condition:  Duplicity. With a capitol “D.” While this could easily be understood in a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reference, I enjoy Atwood’s explanation of it. “What disembodied hand or invisible monster just wrote that cold-blooded comment? Surely it wasn’t me; I am a nice, cosy sort of person, a bit absent-minded, a dab hand at cookies, beloved by domestic animals, and a knitter of sweaters with arms that are too long. Anyway, that cold-blooded comment was a couple lines ago. That was then, this is now, you never step twice into the same paragraph, and when I typed out that sentence I wasn’t myself.”
  • “The composition of a novel may be one part inspiration and nine parts perspiration, but that one part inspiration is essential if the work is to live as art.”
  • Writer: “Why this self-loathing? Perhaps it’s the gap between the image – inherited from the Romantics – and the reality. what will the glorious dead, the giants of literature, make of the ninety-pound-weakling descendants?”
  • “There is never any shortage of people who can think up good things for you to do which are not the same as the things you are good at.”
  • “Publishing a book is often very much like being put on trial, for some offense which is quite other than the one you know in your heart you’ve committed. They [critics] know there’s a body buried somewhere, and they’re keen to dig it up, and then to hunt you down. Trouble is, it’s not usually the right body.”
  • “It isn’t the writer who decides whether or not his work is relevant. Instead it’s the reader.”
  • Reader:  “A spy, a trespasser, someone in the habit of reading other people’s letters and diaries. As Northrop Frye has implied, the reader does not hear, he overhears.”
  • “How many writer have put on other faces, or had other faces thrust upon them, and then been unable to get them off?”
  • “The act of reading is just as singular – always – as the act of writing.”
  • “Going into a narrative – into the narrative process – is a dark road. You can’t see your way ahead. Poets know this too; they too travel the dark roads. The well of inspiration is a hole that leads downwards.”

 

As always, thank you Atwood for your friendly, and yet terrifying, mirror that you hold out for all writers (and society). I read this, warm with laughter at her mindset around the writer and the reader, and as I tucked it back into my bookshelf, I shuddered from the bitter cold this road may prove to be. Luckily, I am not far from the ocean should I need to warm my toes. Only this is laughable still, as it would be in Pacific waters.

XOXO

The Writing of Wharton

55th Trial: Reading parts of my novel to people who do not typically like that style of literature to begin with. It does not tell me if in fact my writing actually doesn’t make sense, or if it does, and that person just has no tolerance for that style of prose. Thankfully, I am understanding the importance of finding the right people to read my novel, and how much I can learn from their perspectives.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 4-6hr/wk

Weekly Choice of Tea: Irish Breakfast Tea

Biggest Success: Becoming a student again. It is far easier to admit the need to tighten the skill set of a writer than to lounge on a throne of chipped paint and consider yourself a writer rich in prose.

 

 

Welcome back! Whether I am saying that to you, or to myself, I say it with arms flung wide to my sides and deeply from my diaphragm. I read my last post, which was a year ago, and I say yet again, welcome back. While my posts will continue to be far and few in between, I cannot neglect documenting my writing process any more. This is after all, a faithful journal of the trails and errors of a first-time novelist. After I have published my novel, I intent to bind all these together and read the contrasting ideas and emotions that have pasted over the many years.

And it has taken years for me to write what I have written, and sometimes one chapter takes a whole 6 months. I do not say that apologetically, as I have a business to run, a non profit to manage, and the impulse of adventure at my fingertips. But aside from all the time, travel, and hustle, I have managed to re-focus, and pick up the pencil once again.

At the beginning of 2019 I began Jen Sincero’s program of working towards one goal of my choice. Mine was to “Secure a Publishing Deal” by the end of the year, and it is a goal that I am working towards. But I knew I would need help. I cannot faithfully pick up writing and ignore the diversions that make me set it down again.

And so I began Margaret Atwood’s online Masterclass on fiction writing. I bought 4 self help books for the writer:  Edith Wharton’s “The Writing of Fiction”, Margaret Atwood’s “On Writers and Writing”, E.M. Forster’s “Aspects of the Novel”, and Stephen King’s “On Writing”. So far, I am learning a great deal, and feel much more of a connection to the world of writing and to that part of me that is a writer. Atwood says that every artist has that element of duplicity – the person brushing their teeth is not the same person that writes “Anna Karenina”.  As I go about my day, handing money to the cashiers, getting in and out of my car, and even as I take Boo out for a walk, I now know that being a writer is within me always, and that in itself its that warm, fuzzy, feeling of community that is making me create a rhythm and routine. As if me and the other me will clink glasses later, salute to the day, and change roles naturally.

As I read from other writers, I wish to share their words of wisdom here. They are nuggets of pure gold that I do not want to wash away. Some are words that are encouraging, some are subtle explanations that blow my mind, while others are brilliant analogies meant to soften the edges of the matrix of novel writing. Or of being a writer. Because both are trials in their own rights, and both need to be navigated through as much as they are cultivated.

Edith Wharton’s book “The Writing of Fiction” is the subject matter I intend to share with you, with the sincere hope that you will read the entirety of it for yourself. Her perspective on writing is absolutely illuminating, as her taste and study of literature is the North Star.

These are the golden highlights; the mineral within the mountains. Enjoy all the words that have spoken so much to me!

  1. “[failure]…is the cause of some painful struggles and arid dissatisfactions; and the only remedy is resolutely to abandon the larger for the smaller field, to narrow one’s vision to one’s pencil, and do the small thing closely and deeply rather than the big thing loosely and superficially.”  Nailed it.
  2. “The great continental novelists are all the avowed debtors of their English predecessors; they took the english novel of manners in its amplitude, its merriment and pathos, and in their hands ‘the thing became a trumpet’.” Something More British, please.
  3. “…dailogue, that precious adjunct, should never be more than an adjunct, and one to be used as skillfully and sparingly as the drop of condiment which flavours a whole dish.” Best advice EVER!
  4. “It is the unnecessary characters who do the crowding, who confuse the reader by uselessly dispersing his attention; but even the number of subordinate yet necessary characters may be greatly reduced by making the principal figures so typical that they adumbrate most of the others.” This, I feel, also applies to changing POV too much.
  5. “The impression produced by a landscape, a street or a house should always, to the novelist, be an event in the history of a soul, and the use of the ‘descriptive passage,’ and its style, shoulde be determined by the fact that it must depict only what the intelligence concerned would have noticed…” How easy it is to share my impressions with the reader, instead of respecting the mind we were just in.
  6. “It is obvious that a mediocre book is always too long, and that a great one usually seems too short.”
  7. “The question of length of a novel naturally leads to the considering of its end; but of this there is little to be said that has not already been implied by the way, since no conclusion can be right which is not latent in the first page. About no part of a novel should there be a clearer sense of inevitability than about its end; any hesitation, any failure to gather up all the threads, shows that the author has not let his subject mature in his mind. A novelist who does not know when his story is finished, but goes on stringing episode to episode after it is over, not only weakens the effect of the conclusion, but robs of significance all that has gone before.” She goes on in length regarding the proportion of the novel, and how the great writers of fiction knows that space is required for any argument worthwhile, and that they follow a “prescribed orbit”.
  8. “The writer must have a range wide enough to include, within the march of unalterable law, all the inconsequences of human desire, ambition, cruelty, weakness and sublimity. He must, above all, bear in mind at each step that his business is not to ask what the situation would be likely to make of his characters, but what his characters, being what they are, would make of the situation.”

A Political Post: JK Rowling

54th Trial: Blaming time and money as my limitations

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot: 0

Weekly Choice of Tea: Irish Breakfast Tea

Biggest Success: I’ve decided to quit my job to become a sole practitioner, a writer, and open up a non-profit chapter here in San Francisco! My biggest success is change itself!

A thought happened upon me the other day, and I found a new inspiration for my dusty, ill kept blog. Can a blog site, used as my own journal for the literary pursuits of my novel, while the pursuit at hand is at a screeching halt, be used still as a vocal platform for all things literature? I would say absolutely, as the silence is still more deafening and lame to me of the fact that I am not writing at all. With this thought, it is exciting to announce to you all that change is in the air! Not just for me, but within our country, within our social systems, within health, and within the neighborhoods at our feet. I see nothing but positive change, especially in this time in America, as imagination holds the key to determining our reality. An imagination that we must all turn to, when threat is in the air and uncertainty becomes the shadow beside us.

Why do I say this? Because JK Rowling has inspired just that. Remember the years when the Harry Potter books were being released at midnight? And we fell in love with her ideas, her characters, her plots? We dreamed of Butterbeer, fantasized of magic hidden amongst us, and admired the unyeilding friendships of the admiring characters. That magic is real, and it comes in many shapes and presentations. It is the same world that will help us through the upcoming years of tyranny, and in facing all the foes to freedom.

I laugh, when I see the battle JK Rowling is having to face. Not her rightful battle against the idiocracy of politicians or Trump himself, but with the response that she is getting from people who used to stand in those very lines at midnight. Who loved her strong characters, who loved the story of overcoming evil at all costs. So many have turned away from her, completely upset that she speaks out against the politics of our day. And my only thought to them is this:

From the author of Harry Potter, could you have assumed anything less? Not only does she write about defeating evil and standing up for those discriminated against, she lives it. What on Earth did you like about her Harry Potter books, if you do not like her modern day vocal tweets and political rants? The essence of Harry Potter is in defending basic human rights, or did you think they lived on a cloud and Avada Kadavra was shooting people with bullets of cotton candy? For you who burned her books, or disapproves of how she is in the political realm, we are all thankful to no longer have your contradictory voices behind the force for good. Because it’ll take the purest imagination to get through this, and it’ll take the consistency that is illustrated in the Order of the Phoenix and in Dumbelore’s Army. Imagine that!

in Fog and in Contrast

53rd Trial: “I’m sitting’ on the dock of the bay, wastin’ time…”

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot:  Since last post, I have averaged about 6 hours a week

Weekly Choice of Tea: Earl Grey, yet again my friends

Biggest Success: I have finished and typed up Chapter 8, and have begun plotting Chapter 9! I am almost done reading “The Professor”, which has turned out to be another masterpiece to the inner working of the human heart (male this time, which makes it the more intriguing) (and might I also add, has little events happening but the construction, confusion, and complete destruction of characters themselves in the eyes of our severe protagonist).

Edit- Black DSC_0758

While I have been a resident in Frisco Bay for almost 10 months now, my drive home from work today assured me of one inarguable fact:  there is no place like San Francisco. Sure you can say that regarding the character of any place you go, any city you get to know, any country you happen to travel; but places that I have gone, known, and traveled tend to have similarities, things to compare them to. San Francisco is nothing but a contrast to everything.

When I first alighted the streets of Fisherman’s Warf and the popular tourist destinations, I felt as if seeing the Golden Gate Bridge clearly was a chance encounter;   that for a tourist to catch the city in sunny rays was lucky enough to miss the foggy atmosphere that usually engulfs it. And grant it, since living here I have gotten used to the gentle flow of foggy wisps that begin to roll over the tree tops in the early evening — but a ‘foggy city’ has not been my experience of San Francisco, that is, until today.

It was one of the most beautiful moments I have had this past year. As my car curved through the hilly East Bay, I saw the city obscured by a depressed sky, as if someone pulled on the horizon just below the sun as one does a shade in a window. As I approached the Bay Bridge, I could see the fog hovering low above the water. I saw that if Alcatraz could stretch its arm just a little bit higher, its solitary state could touch both Earth and Sky and epitomize Purgatory.  I too felt that if I reached enough outside my car window, I could scoop up a handful of the low clouds and sell it on a stick at a fair. The fog was thick, thicker than I ever have seen. The sun was a perfect circle if you chanced to see it, and if you didn’t, you knew it was still there by the yellow glow that horizontally cut through the grey sky. It became more like the beacon of a distant lighthouse, growing brighter one minute then drawing away as the light rotated its cycle.

I passed over the bridge in this manner, never once thinking the city looked eery in its dark shroud. You felt as though you had no idea where this bridge actually led to, and if it was suddenly magicked to transport you from this foggy snow globe to a fantastical land. And then you would glimpse the flicker of orange peaking out of the top of the cloud, Golden Gate Bridge herself alluding to the same idea, convincing you you were in a land of giants and Jack’s beanstalk was under your wheels.

No city, no town, no place that I have known could elicit so much excitement, so much imagination, so much energy, all while surrounding you with so much darkness.

A Perfect Perspective

49th Trial: What sentiments have I not already covered?

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot:  2hr

Weekly Choice of Tea: Turmeric and Ginger

Biggest Success: To date, my work-in-progress is 70 pages typed

sf

I am a Chiropractor living in San Francisco, not far from the famed painted ladies of Alamo Square. I have started slowly writing my novel, a life goal of mine that seems to share the over-cramped room of my Ambition with other careers, other desires, and other interests. Currently, my tongue is raw from a pack of sour patch kids and my Alice in Wonderland mug is steeping tea. These are the hard facts for the start of 2017 and for my first yearly blog post. Might I remind all readers that this blog is to hold myself accountable to the purpose of my writing, as well as a faithful narrative of my journey. If only there were a way to hold myself accountable for up-keeping the blog…

2017 has started as most of my years do:   an outburst of all that I want to accomplish, followed by a deep, long stare, which inevitably sinks me into a state of mild depression. So, what will I do with the challenges I have placed at my doorstep? I’m willing to tell ya. I’m wanting to tell ya. I’m waiting to tell ya!!!

My first action step was to feed the lethargy with Gilmore Girl episodes, and luckily I did so. There was a moment in the episode that illustrated how perfect, the perfect perspective can be. To accomplish any dream or desire, is to simply fall in love with it. Become in awe of it. Be humbled by it. I am not a writer because Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters inspired it. I am a writer because I am a part of their legacy. We, non of us, are our own stories that do not share the stories of everyone around us or before us. My time on this planet is minuscule, and the importance of my novel even less. However, I have contributed to the inhalation and exhalation of San Francisco’s eclectic city as it builds and progresses. Every patient of mine has allowed me to become a part of their health. I get the distinct pleasure of sitting in the front row seats of Jamie’s life and that of Boo Radley’s.  I write to support the love and legacy of literature. Those thoughts alone bring purpose to itself.

jamie-and-cable-car

Boo.JPG

 

Fantastic Beasts: a Reality

47th Trial: “I never worry. Because it only hurts twice.”  A (summed up) quote from the ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ movie.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot:  3hr

Weekly Choice of Tea: Earl Grey with Almond Milk!

Biggest Success: This blog post is inspired by the incredible movie that I saw last night, where J. K. Rowling’s imagination again found footing in reality. Maybe it was because I infinitely enjoyed magic in America that I loved this movie, or because I saw the beautiful care of precious creatures, or getting to spend an evening watching Eddie Redmayne (who is singularly adorable)! But the effect of the movie was immense! I cannot come back down so easily from the high of Rowling’s wizarding world, and am eyeing the latest release of the illustrated second Harry Potter book, ready to begin reading it tonight again. For the 15th time.

‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them” took even me by surprise, a die-hard Harry Potter fan. Its magic was innovative and full of wonder, and the creatures were fascinating. The movie was brilliant, funny, and brought back the names we know so well:  Albus Dumbledore, Gellert Grindelwald, and even Lestrange.

Rowling’s world has turned out to be endless, naturally. I look forward to all the possibilities of Newt Scamander’s world and those of the multitude of other characters. These books give hope to reality, as their trials are the trails that we too have faced. We are no different, in our differences. To worry, to feel estranged, to feel obscure–though natural and intuitive emotions, have the power to grow fear and violence. How right it seems, to have this wizarding world show us all in turn our differences and our ability to always fight for humanity–in ourselves as well in others. Whether it be for the innocence of beasts in the wild, the abused and oppressed child, or for choice and free will.

I worry from the recent election. I worry for my stability in society, and my footing in California. But where there is imagination, hope, kindness, (and for me, Harry Potter!), there will always be a beautiful reality worth fighting for.