Thursday, March 10, 2011

M M M My Teratoma

A question for you, my little pretty one, pretty one: Do all writers behave this way, or am I just particularly insane? Because I've been working on my novel for roughly five years now AND I JUST CHANGED IT. AGAIN.

I was almost done my edits, almost ready to give my manuscript to the freelance editor I've hired. And then I went and changed it. It's pretty major stuff, too, what needs to be rewritten. All the subtle weaving background stuff, underlying motivation, showing without telling stuff. Ugh.

As much as it grilled my cheese to realize that these changes are necessary, these changes are necessary. My subplot is so annoyingly complicated with so little pay-off for the reader. Here's the gist:

See there's this secret, yeah, a secret from my main character's past that only certain secondary characters know about. This secret unfolds slowly, gradually, until... well, nothing. But wait! There's more! See, it turns out that those secondary characters don't know the whole truth, only bits of it, bits that my main character keeps to herself, buried under trauma and disease and religion and snow and self doubt and and... wait! There's more! There's a secondary narrator, too! She tells her own story through these diary entries that are supposed to be subtle and mysterious... but you pretty much know what's up from the beginning. And she's connected to the main character who's connected to the secondary characters...

I mean, wow, talk about overkill. It was impossible to show and not tell. I could barely keep the subplot straight and I'm the one who made it up!

When I started writing this revision I thought, hey, it's literary fiction -- plot elements are allowed to dangle without ever amounting to much. And then I read Cloud Atlas and was terribly disappointed. All that delicious language and set-up, and for what?

I don't like reading those books, why the hell would I write one?

Anyhoo, I'm not upset about the changes, the making of, the realization of. Keep it simple stupid, and all. But what I am upset about is how these changes make me feel. And how they make me feel is this: that this project will never be complete.

This book is starting to feel like a growth, like one of those benign tumors with hair and teeth and a heartbeat -- a teratoma is what it is. I love my teratoma because it's a part of me. But it's sort of sucking the life out of me, too.

If you're having a bad day like I am, read this. It didn't cheer me up today, but it may do the trick for you.


  1. Did you just describe, and therefore possibly write, Lost? I'm pretty sure you did.

  2. My novel decays upon me like the body of an albatross.

    -Virginia Wolf

  3. Matt: What's this "Lost" you speak of? Are the Kardashians in it?

    Alana: Yeah, a Jessica Albatross.

  4. sometimes it's better to leave things to the reader's imagination.

    leave room for a 3 book deal? HELLO. $_$

  5. Paul: So true. I hate it when a writer makes it too obvious but I also hate it when they leave me hanging. It's such a fine balance, no?

  6. Great post. Thanks for the link to this interesting article. I am saddened by the thought of all those "failed" novels by great writers. Maybe I'm an optimist but I think any novel can be great, with enough layers of revision. I've found Between the Lines by Jessica Page Morrell helpful in focussing my revisions, as I tend towards compulsive rewriting rather than generating new material. I've heard it said that the point to stop revising is when your revisions are making your MS worse rather than better, though I've found it easy enough to cross that line without realizing it. Anyway, good luck finishing up ... and remember that some of us are patiently waiting to read this novel of yours. Don't make us wait too much longer!

  7. Evadne: I know huh? What a crazy article! I think you're right, though. Any novel can be great. Especially yours. You have the heart and the guts to pull it off, Evadne, and I'll be the first to buy it.