In The Seventh Year

The school year is underway, and I am getting myself ready to dig into edits on the second half of my novel, Rift, which I'll be submitting to my editor sometime between Christmas and the New Year. I made a huge push on it this summer, rewriting significant parts of the opening 50 pages. This was based on some great advice I got from Alan Mitchell and Andrea Hallstrom, who were the judges who gave Rift the Marilyn Brown Award.

The big issue for me and this book has been the opening. It has gone through the most vigorous rewriting. The problem with big changes like this is that once you start chopping things out, you notice how connected they are to other parts of the manuscript. A novel is less of a modular creation and more of an ecological one: you pull out one part and way later in the story, you find the dead branch that you have to prune out. Take that out, and somewhere else you discover another dead patch.

This kind of detail work can get maddening, but it's also what makes me feel most like a writer. Lots of people have said something like this, but writing when you're in the flow, isn't writing. It's something else, something that is also good, but it's not the same as that thing you make yourself do out of discipline or love for the project or the craft or your editor. It's something else entirely, and I love it. Now that I am surrounded by little kids and a wife launching a successful career as an art teacher, I have had to set aside a lot of that flow-writing.

Life is a little too busy right now to get into the mood; however, I can do the detail work because it is so task oriented. I find that I really enjoy the way this work fights against the chaos of things as they normally are in my life right now. I'm sure that some time in the future, this kind of chaos will become some other kind of chaos, but for now, this is the joy.

Soon, I'll be embarking on the second half of my revisions. I had an absolutely spot-on read from William Morris (gentleman and scholar) of A Motley Vision fame. He reviewed Long After Dark in a way that is still almost embarrassingly generous. William is one of the most gregarious and thoughtful readers I've met in a long time. I subscribe to his Good Reads feed, and I'm amazed weekly at the breadth of his reading.

In any case, William made some great suggestions for the second half of the novel. He saw some patterns and loose ends that I have missed, and I'm excited to get into the work and develop some of the thematic threads I lost track of as I fought along through the drafts, trying to just get myself finished.

The long and short of it all is this: I'm feeling more and more like the project is coming to a close, for me. That's how it is with a book, once I'm done, then its on its own, which is the really exciting and nerve-wracking part. I've lived with this project since the fall of 2001, when I moved to Utah and started teaching at Southern Utah University. If you would have told me then, that I'd be spending seven years in a single project, I'd have kicked you in the belly. But here were are, in the seventh year, the sabbatical year. Hmmm, no rest in sight.