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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

WADING IN DEEP WATER

"On a dark theme I trace verses full of light, touching
all the Muses' charm." Lucretius (Titus Lucretius Carus) 99 - 55 B.C.
"De Rirum Natura - On the Nature of Things) book l518

I'm struggling these days, wading through deep water as I try to unravel the complexities of the political events plaguing Athens/Macedonia in 318 BC . So many of the events are similar to current times and of course there are the usual complex sub-plots and intrigues that all weave together to pattern the eventual downfall of Alexander the Great's dynasty. My job as a writer of historical fiction is to untangle this mess of intrigue and clarify it for the reader to understand. It's a crucial part of my novel, the peak of the mountain so to speak, before the final slide down to the ultimate ending. How to do it? What to include and what to leave out?
And because I'm writing from the actual historial plot I can't make things up -- must try to stick as closely to what has been documented as possible.

Some of the events I've put in direct action; some are conveyed in dialogue; some in narration.
Included is a certain amount of foreshadowing. And interspersed is a bit of lightness, some romantic interludes (though even that is part of the intrigue -- a 'fictional' touch to add interest.)

I felt very discouraged the other night when I workshopped my recent chapter segements at my weekly critque group, mainly because there are several new members in the group who have no idea whatsoever about the story and can't be expected to understand the complexities of it when they have just arrived at page 1200 something. (Yes, I know I have to do massive cuttings later on but for now I must write it all out to the end!). I feel really frustrated at the moment, though I'm sure I'll work through this. It's like wading in deep water and sometimes I feel like I'm going in over my head, so I have to take my time with it, take each step carefully to make sure I don't loose my footing and sink. I'm so close to finishing this novel, which has taken me literally YEARS to write, and I am anxious to get through it. At the same time, I don't want to rush, to cut unnecessarily in case it is something crucial, (I'd rather leave the cutting til the end instead of going back to add.)

Meanwhile, as well as the novel I have other writing to get done -- my bread-and-butter writing. That is, travel stories. (Another frustration: I just had a very good story of mine which the editor liked and wanted to publish, turned down because she didn't like the quality of my photos! This story had been previouslypublished and that editor had no problem with the photos. However it seems now they want high quality digitals so I guess I better ditch my Pentax and invest in a new camera.) I'm working on the first draft of an article right now so I'm trying to balance my writing time between fact and fiction. Fortunately this week I am not working days so I have the time to write. Of course, every evening I am either at a writer's group or teaching writing classes at night school.

One thing I am happy about are the classes, and in particular the private workshop I started at home with members from my previous classes is going very well. It's a small group so there is lots of time for a bit of instruction, discussion and thorough critiquing. And, I have another editing job which is good experience.

I'm sure I'll get through this rough patch of my novel, but at the moment (since the workshop critiques) I've felt discouraged and it makes me wonder if I'll ever get through it.
I guess what I need is someone I can talk to about it as sometimes just talking it through helps clear the path, but unfortunately at my workshop group no time is allowed for explanations or discussions, one reason why I left there this week feeling very frustrated and wondering if it's worth reading it again. Oh, I know I'll get over it. Maybe it's just the mood I'm in. Maybe I've just been too busy with other things to let the Muse speak.

" I am in blood
Stepp'd in so far, that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er."
William Shakespeare 1564-1616 "Macbeth" III iv 136

3 comments:

Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

I greatly admire writers of historical fiction, Wynn. The time, research and patience involved is simply mind-boggling. And it’s important work to be sure because there’s nothing as irritating as being yanked out of a story because of glaring inaccuracies.

Finding yourself near the end of an important writing project can cause angst and self-doubt. You’ve come too far, Wynn, to give up now. You’ll get through this and your historical novel will shine. Each time I read about it here I envision it as a great screen epic. You never know! ;-)

Wynn Bexton said...

I really appreciated your message, Daisy. I occasionally need this kind of positive feed-back. Actually I worked for 7 hrs on the novel the other day and progressed a bit with it. I didn't 'cut' what was suggested as it was, to my thinking, important. I just added more to make the foreshadowing clearer. The critiques that threw me off were from people who actually haven't heard any (or only a wee bit) of the novel and really had no idea of what I was doing or why I included what I did. But it was discouraging to me and I felt frustrated. I am still wondering about workshopping it again under the circumstances but I suppose I'll have to as I have been workshopping it all the way through til now and it's important for me to get the feed-back.

This weekend I'm hoping to progress a bit farther. I'm also working on some of the Malaysia stories so I have a lot on the go right now. Thanks again for your encouraging comments.

Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

Critiques can be good and bad, Wynn. And, let’s face it, some people who critique really shouldn’t. ;-) Some people find certain elements in a story to be unimportant/unsavory/boring/poorly-written, etc., while other readers may wax poetic about those very same passages. There are writers and readers with savvy insight and a supportive, caring manner--and then there are others with an inborn snarkiness, subtle streaks of cruelty running in their veins, or, sadly, just plain envy.

As trusting writers it’s often difficult for us to determine which is which. And the cruelty can be so easily disguised as helpful guidance. Ultimately, we need to rely on our own instincts.

This work is your baby, Wynn--your carefully crafted, loving creation. Those of us who read your blog and are treated to snippets of your work can feel and sense the time, effort, research and love you’ve put into your creation. You mustn’t allow any negative critiques to instill doubt in your abilities and talent or impede you from your progress.

Just do the best you can with the manuscript and then when you feel it’s polished and ready, take a deep breath and let it go. Submit it and let the professionals offer practiced, informed feedback. (And even that needs to be taken with a grain of salt.)