chopping down the oak, planting an acorn

Elaine, John Atkinson Grimshaw

10,261 (NANO novel). After reaching my word goal for the November novel yesterday, I turned my attention to A Lamentation of Swans and decided to start this book over. I love the idea of this novel so much and the desire to write it is like a fire I can’t put out. I’m not able to let it go, but it’s clear to me that a lot about the story as it’s written so far does not sit well in my mind. So–back to square one. Not a revision or a re-do, but a re-envisioning, a new start at page 1, a fresh perspective. I put away the most recent printout in the box with all the ALoS stuff, going to pretend like the book doesn’t exist. It’s a brand-new collection of ideas; a shining white road winds before me, and the murky forest has vanished.

John Gardner in The Art of Fiction states, in discussing the “Write about what you know.” maxim: “Nothing can be more limiting to the imagination, nothing is quicker to turn on the psyche’s censoring devices and distortion systems, than trying to write truthfully and interestingly about one’s own home town, one’s Episcopalian mother, one’s crippled younger sister.” I know nothing; I’ll have to imagine it all.

Gardner continues to say, “For some writers, the advice may work, but when it does, it usually works by a curious accident: The writer writes well about what he knows because he has read primarily fiction of just this kind–realistic fiction of the sort we associate with The New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, or Harper’s. The writer, in other words, is presenting not so much what he knows about life as what he knows about a particular literary genre.” The writer writes the kind of story he knows and likes best.


I don’t think I’ll get any words on the November novel today, but I’m a bit ahead so not to worry. I’m not going to pressure myself over it.

It’s a pale November morning, and tomorrow, Mom will have been gone from us a month.


2 thoughts on “chopping down the oak, planting an acorn

  1. Debra, thanks for popping in! Left you a message on my blog as well. Hope you make the gumbo. It’s the best thing on a cold day. Tomorrow, you celebrate the one month anniversary of your Mother’s new beginning. I can but imagine she’s with my parents, helping others cross over to their new beginnings. I miss Mama and Daddy something awful, but I rejoice with them in their new journey. We’ll see them all soon enough. In the meantime, live, laugh and love like there’s no tomorrow. I’m determined…night sweetie.

  2. My heart goes out to you, for sure.

    Sounds like you’re doing well with Nano, getting lots of words down! I’m impressed!

    I’m busy with my WIP these days and haven’t signed up for Nano. I might yet give it a try, if I finish this current draft in the next couple of weeks.

    Your idea of a fresh start with ALoS is a great idea. That’s what I did each time I started a new draft of THE REFLECTING STONE. I considered it a new beginning, bringing forward all the valuable ideas and insights of my previous efforts, but also allowing room to grow, room to re-envision, expand, evolve. It helped!

    Best wishes.

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