November 17, 2015 by Gregory Josephs
A Blank Page
This morning I am excited. I’m excited and somewhat over-caffeinated and thats alright. The three cups of coffee I’ve already downed are just helping to further fuel this maddening energy. I feel as though I could burst, but I don’t want anything to quell it—this feeling of potential and possibility. Finally, finally I am sitting down to a blank page. My revision of Chapter Twelve is done and I’ve skimmed through the first two-thousand words of Chapter Thirteen that I wrote over two years ago. Everything I put down from this point forward is totally and entirely new.
The manuscript ends in the middle of a paragraph. I’m not sure what I was doing at the time and why I left it this way. The thought was clearly unfinished but I view that as a good thing. I’m going to just delete it and start again, maybe picking up the thought I left out in the atmosphere or maybe finding a whole new thread. I don’t know. I’m ripe for a new beginning. This is going to be good.
I think that every writer struggles with doubt. Thats what I’ve been feeling the majority of the time since my little hiatus a month ago. It was so important to me to prepare for this moment when I reached the end—when there was nothing left to revise—and so I planned and plotted and spent hours thinking about where things were going to go and where I wanted them to end up. I mined the source material of my memories and tried desperately to find ways to translate my own real-life experiences into Ryan’s world so I could finish this novel with confidence. Thats where my struggles really began.
I have attempted to assert to both myself and others on many occasions: This is a memoir with artificial flavors added. Ryan is not me, and I am not Ryan. I have admitted there is not a lot of fiction in Part 1. There is some but its not a lot. So far I’m doing much better about that with Part 2. The only real true-to-life stuff concerns the minor details. Thats what I want—this is supposed to be Ryan’s story after all, not mine. So why, I ask myself, have I been so concerned about fictionalizing all these real events moving forward? And if I am so dead set on doing so, why has thinking about it proven so difficult?
The answer? I have succeeded in creating the necessary divergence between reality and fantasy. Ryan has set out on his own path. I’m not saying his footsteps and mine won’t converge again, but—
I think when I stopped writing the last time (two years ago) I failed to see how the story was taking a direction of its own. I was still attempting to fictionalize my real life and I wasn’t giving the story room to breathe. I’m sure thats ultimately why I stopped. I’m not going to make that mistake this time.
I have been reading for the last week—On Writing by Stephen King. I’m sure most writers I know read this years ago and there seems to be a consensus amongst a lot of serious writers that its just a lot of drivel. I disagree, and I think that for me this came at just the right time. For better or for worse Stephen King has managed to validate many aspects of my process and encouraged me more than ever to forge ahead.
Perhaps the most valuable thing I’ve gotten from his book is his attitude toward plot. In his own process he plots nothing. He prefers to create situations and then see how his characters work their way out of them. He sees no value in painstakingly outlining every detail of a book before he starts—its restrictive and stifles his creativity. I wonder if I’m not the same way. I’ve outlined and strategized and planned and plotted and truly? The best parts of TEORG so far were never in these outlines. They arose organically. And Stephen King isn’t the only one to think this way. Most if not all of Tom Perrotta’s novels are about characters dealing with a situation he presents them.
So now, as I prepare to take on the blank page I’m going to crumple up my outlines and burn them. There are a few more major almost-true-to-life events I’d like to work in, but I’ll let them happen when they want to happen. I’m not going to force it. The rest of TEORG is going to happen as it happens and thats exciting to me.
This may sound like a major diversion from my previous plans. I should note that I’m not throwing away my direction, just the pre-scripted details I tried so hard to amass.
Of course my main reason for wanting to have everything neatly outlined stems from my decision to serialize this project. I wrote in my post The Perils of Serialization about how I felt a certain pressure to get everything right the first time. People are reading and I am a little worried about writing myself into a corner. However, I guess thats par for the course. If I need to backpedal in later revisions or take a totally different course partway through, I’m sure you’ll forgive me. And it won’t it be interesting to see the changes in the final draft? So I’m officially throwing caution to the wind. Lets see how this turns out together!
As always, thanks for reading. Chapter Eleven will be available on Friday, November 20.
One last bit of news—I am thrilled that today gregoryjosephs.com will receive its thousandth view. Not bad for just over two months in. I thank you for that. Have a great week!