Writing on the Road: Novels and Dreams

An unfinished novel is like an interrupted dream.
I come to the end of this journey designated specifically for completing a second draft of Helena the Muse and see so much more work than I could have imagined in any waking state. I am still groggy, half asleep, and feel unsated, the vision incomplete, as though I had only begun the hard leg of my travels, with many bug stings and limb lashes and hard ground to sleep on still to go.

I regret, perhaps, traveling so far. I stayed primarily in the Ozarks, near Eureka Springs, revisiting my adolescent trip there and camping next to lakes and rivers. But the drive time was long and took up much time. Still, listening to Hawking was edifying if not distracting, Missouri can count me as a visitor thanks to my inability to navigate while learning about singularity in black holes. And on the long road back to Texas I listened to Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, which had an overstory punctuated by flashbacks like mine. I pulled over in the Ouachita National Forest to scratch out a diagram of her story structure, seeing its efficiency and lamenting the complexity of mine.

So I drove back to my old home town and parked myself at the public library, making outline after outline until I had a better handle on my overstory and the subplots within them. I think it is more streamlined now and hopefully works better.

And yet, still so much new writing to do, so much clean up.

My main goal now is to get the first 50 pages, the most an agent might ask for at the conference, as perfect as possible. This is a huge task, as each time I write a new version of the opening scenes, I hate them more. I want it to move; I must get background in. It’s frustrating and taxing and twice yesterday I wanted to hurl my laptop across the room but instead sat in a little study room, hiding on the floor behind the table and just cried instead.

It will get done. One way or another. It’s just a longer and harder road than I thought it would be. And as for dreaming, sleep is a luxury I can ill afford. Prepare yourself for the dark circle eyed Deanna, the pale wan version, until July.

If only a novel were like an uninterrupted dream, comfortable, languorous, and eternal.

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