Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I'm going after work to see my grad school advisor speak at B&N. I'm probably going to buy his book so he can sign it, even though he's already signed one for me before, when he was my professor. Keep Writing, he wrote back then. I wonder what he'd say if he asks me whether I'm still writing. Yes, a blog. Five blogs. I finished the novel, and sent it around, got an agent, but no publisher. I think about writing fiction now, but mostly don't feel like it.

I hardly read it anymore. I can't say exactly why. Maybe life has most of my attention now. Divorce, remarriage, losing a son can really snap you awake. Yeah, life got my attention alright.

I think about how fiction, a sports event, war, and political events work on the mind. The outcome is what you anticipate most, the outcome of each interaction, toward an end point; but with fiction one person is in control of the story. You may want to reread a book or rewatch a movie, but in sports and politics, few want to replay the whole process again. I've known people who will read the last page of a book before they start, but no one wants to know how a football game ends until they see it. No one wants to be telegraphed the end of a good movie. In war, the moves are replayed as lessons in what to do or not to do next time. In politics, there is no real end. That's the fascinating part. There's no season, no third act. It's always in medias res. If you believe in good vs evil, it can be maddening.

Doc used to tell us to keep a journal, that his idea for Ragtime came from simply describing the room where he was writing, then researching who the architect was, and reading historical accounts of his life and times. Stanford White and the Gibson girl. It happened that I read the Alienist around the same time I read Waterworks. If you want to learn the difference between a writer and an author, I suggest you do the same. In fact, I just might do so again.


  1. I find the progression of narrative time to be the most daunting. In my hands it is reduced to a series of 'and thens'. I usually cheat my way through by opening at a point which suggests earlier events and then continue with allusions and flashbacks until I arrive at the crux. I envy the ability to build on a linear model without becoming wooden. Some stories would be better if simply told from the top. He once pointed out Melville, in Moby Dick, arrives at Chapter 20 before he disengages with the real-time exposition and moves the narrative forward by several compressions of unexamined days. But, of course, these are simply technical problems that get in the way of good work. It all starts with the writing. Best.

  2. I never feel like I've done justice to my characters. Plot can be broken down into necessary scenes and transitions, but you're right, linear narrative can be deadening. I like what Frank O'Connor used to do: just tell the story the first time around, and worry about how you tell it during the rewrite.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.