Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Time is on My Side... right?

In the midst of all this novel-restructuring, I have finally reached a point of calm. The hard part is always finding a way to begin. For me, the answer came when I thought of some advice I once received from a professor a few years ago that still sticks with me. She said, essentially, that unless there was a very good reason not to do it, the most logical way to structure your fiction is in chronological order.

This makes sense for obvious reasons. With the novel-in-stories, I had organized the novel by story, meaning by narration of the character involved, whether in first, second, or third person. To tear apart those stories, for the last few weeks, has been my task, and it's a task I don't fancy. Consider it the epitome of "Murder your darlings." I couldn't fathom a way of doing it until I thought about my former professor's advice. Would it work in this case? By Jove, it just might.

And so, the task has been creating a detailed timeline that outlines when exactly in time each event of each story occurs. I have nearly reached the conclusion of this, but it has been slow going. Because each chapter had a story in and of itself, a separate entity, I never gave a lot of thought to how the time sequence of one might impact the time sequence of another. Alas, when something vital happens in one story and is also glimpsed in another, it can become problematic to chronologize them when that means that the majority of what happens in the second story, given the amount of time it takes to drive from Ohio to Pennsylvania on I-80, happens several hours later than I need it to, considering certain events that are supposed to happen after that in a third story that, in fact, happen a few hours too soon given this new travel-time revelation. These are the things we grapple with for our art.

When I finish grappling with these dilemmas and follow up with adequate solutions, which I anticipate managing to do by mid-week at the latest, the next task involves pasting each time-noted piece in chronological order in a new document. For this to work, the narrative with get a bit wild for a bit and I'll have to go through and decide how best to handle that particular situation. The book has a lot of narrators and they will end up thrown willy-nilly throughout the novel, depending on when they are occuring in the timeline.

At first, I was concerned about this. However, I've been reading a lot of Louise Erdrich lately, working my way through her collected works (in chronological order no less), and Erdrich has multiple narrators per chapter, sometimes several if I recall correctly. Moreover, sometimes these narrators are in first person, sometimes third. There may even be a second person or two. The thing is, it works, or at least, it works for her. It gives me hope that what I attempt will not be in vain and that, at the end of all the toil, with some editing and some rewriting, I can make this novel-in-stories function as a plain-old-novel.

Like the little engine that could, I will hope that my "I think I can" attitude will lead to success. Here's to chugging along in blind faith that things will work out in the end. Optimism, don't fail me now.

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