This week I had the same epiphany I apparently had in March, but it still feels like progress.
I started over in October, because I was stuck. I figured that a clean Scrivener file would fix my problems, but I stayed stuck.
One of my (many) problems with the draft as it stood was that I hadn’t identified the voice of the narrator. There were multiple voices, and some of them worked better than others, and none of them was telling the story I had set out to tell.
It turns out that staring at a blank word processor was the opposite of what I needed and in fact was pretty paralyzing. I just kept thinking, what if I do that again? Write a whole novel’s worth of words that don’t work?
In the meantime, I actually liked some of the stuff I cut, particularly this one experiment that focuses on the narrator’s life 22 years after she was conned. Maybe it didn’t fit in this novel, but perhaps I could make a short story out of it? So I gathered my scraps and stitched them together and submitted them to be workshopped.
This can be the magic of a good workshop. Most of us, I think, submit things to workshop thinking they are no good and should never see the light of the day, and sometimes the workshop affirms that and we can confidently let them go. But sometimes the workshop says, “No, this could work! Keep going!”
In this case, my fellow writers picked up on all the themes of the main plot I’ve been trying and failing to write, which was surprising to me because they were elements I didn’t think were in these pages. As they talked, I felt like they were talking about the novel, and I realized that this side story I didn’t think fit does belong in the novel and maybe even is the novel. The voice is mostly working, and maybe all I need to do is use it to tell the whole story. Maybe I can even use it to give voice to more people.
This felt like a mini breakthrough, until I realized that I had this same breakthrough in March. (This is the downside of writing about this project weekly — it has become painfully apparent how circular and cyclical my process is.) But I have written tens of thousands of words since then. I have proved out a hunch. I have tried other paths and found them uninspiring. So this realization still feels good and right and gives me hope.
The new plan: bring this voice back in and see what happens…