I often have a title before I have a story, or shortly after I have the framework of one. I suppose then, that some of my efforts are towards making sure that story matches that title, or lives up to it, or that I don’t have to alter the title, or any number of ridiculous things that gets in the way of writing the story. Since I’ve reused titles (nothing I’ve written is yet published, so this really isn’t an issue yet) I suppose that strengthens the chances that one of these times it will be a perfect match. One of these times.
I’m bringing this up for two reasons. The first is why I chose the user name and title for this blog.
“… in progress” is one of those titles that have flitted around my paintings quite a bit. I’ve used it so far for one of my “interludes” paintings (I paint in watercolor as well as draw in pen & ink and some pencil). I like the feeling behind the words in progress, it indicates that something isn’t complete but it is getting there. It is active. It is similar to potential but without the possibly debilitating side-effects of that word. “Walking To Bars” was a title I came up with in a bar with friends in college my senior year. I decided that would be the title of my first novel. I love the way those words seem to encapsulate an activity, but broaden it to include a culture that exists for a few years at least and that ties in to past versions of ourselves and what we are doing in our present (the title feels reflective to me, a way we were type of title). That “first” novel I began right after I graduated college years ago. The whole thing was outlined, with chapter titles and everything. It would take place over the course of a year and a half and … I rightfully put it aside. Not only was I not ready to write a novel at that time, I wasn’t ready to write that novel at that time.
For a long time, this title has just sat there; a hidden title that was waiting to be used for something. I don’t know that I’ll ever write that particular novel though. Elements of it have already slipped naturally into other things that I’m working on and it feels like maybe that particular story was too perfectly plotted to feel natural as it’s own thing. But, once again, since I haven’t had anything published that could very well still be the title of my first novel and if that’s the case, well then, this blog has the perfect url, now doesn’t it?
The second reason is a far more present one for me: I seem to be a bit stuck on my current project. The title is great and the first chapter works great with it–it’s the rest of the story so far that has been stopping me up. I have the concept of the story down, themes that are still interesting for me to explore and some interesting ideas for future chapters–stylistic things that I want to try. It’s all about getting there and I feel like I’m letting the story and the title down with my attempts to create these characters. The story is going to take place in two parts of this characters life, then and now. Then is 1999 and now is, well now. I’m trying to show how these characters started and how they ended up based on circumstance and choice; I’m trying to show how it’s perhaps not too late to do that thing or be that person that you thought that you would be. I’m just having trouble right now doing it. My then stalled a little in it’s flow so I thought that I would work a little bit on the now portion of the story, but that sent it in a direction that just isn’t right for the characters or this story.
I need to generate 20-30 fresh pages for next Wednesday (for class) and I’ve mapped out the areas of the story that I need to hit in this very rough draft to make revising/ rewriting it doable for the final project (and for the story). The biggest hurdle that I’m hitting right now? Everything that I’m writing, however good (and, believe me, I’m calling my quality into question right now) is constantly recreating this character. There isn’t much cohesion between the versions. I think this is one case where, as my teacher would put it, I’ve left the dream of the story.
I can’t say that this experience has been worthless in regard to writing this, as a matter of fact it has been very valuable. I have had a lot going on the last seven weeks (has it only been seven weeks? Wow.) that I’ve been working on this. Between my complications at work and my less than satisfactory experiences with my Monday night class, I’ve learned how hard it is to keep the story that I’m working on fresh and moving. I’ve allowed myself to get pulled out of the flow by other things. Now, for the purposes of this class, I have to get my flow back. Then, for the purposes of working in the future, I have to learn how to keep it in the future, because this isn’t going to get any easier for me. And I’m not planning on stopping.
So, the title that I’m writing toward? It’s a secret. If it doesn’t work for this then I might use it for something else and I don’t want it to be clouded by the perceptions created in this entry. Besides, I’ve already given you two choice titles (that are so mine, by the way) so what more do you want from me?
I’ll give you one more title: The Name of the World. Good title, right? You can’t have that one either, Don DeLillo already used it for a lovely little book. You should read it.
More later …