Manuscripts

Watching Blossom grow, the writing saga

The blossom for which the town was named

If you read much here, then you know that yours truly, your Faithful Author, has maintained a manuscript cemetery for at least three decades, and like Arlington in times of war, it sometimes fills up pretty fast, although in his mind it sort of looks more like this one in the woods beside the town where the novel, Blossom, is set.

Graves in the pines

There are around fifty thousand dead sheets of paper laid to rest there. It’s more than that, but FA hasn’t kept track for a long time.

There are five completed novels buried there, and these are the names engraved on their tombstones:

“Fringe Disturbances.” “The Last Island.” “The last Leaf.” “And it’s only Love.” “Blossom.” The latter’s original title was “Island in the Pines.”  (Island in the pines describes the town in the novel, Blossom is the name of the town in the novel.)

There are also failed short stories — the kind of writer your FA is produces failed short stories at a ratio ten to one over successful ones, ridiculous poetry, unsold film scripts, a couple of one-act plays, and hundreds, probably thousands, of pages excised from published novels during various stages of editing.

Island in the Pines has been touched by the miracle of the resurrecting spirt of a desperate writer, and been reborn and renamed: Blossom.

What good is a dead novel cemetery if not a place to practice the Jesus trick? Otherwise it’s just tranquil decor.

Island in the Pines, now Blossom, was buried because it failed and then died due to a series of flagrant errors in judgement made by its creator. God blinked. It was imagined first as a memoir about the Faithful Author’s young years in the south during the most desperate and deadly days of the Civil Rights Movement,, its impact on neighbors, friends, families — white and black. After a couple of hundred pages of that, the FA realized that he didn’t really have the skill set required to write a memoir, but tried to save the idea by turning toward fiction. That became the 96,800 word novel called Island in the Pines. Because it was originally conceived as a memoir, and told, of course, in a memoir narrative voice, the novel was narrated in the first-person. God blinked, Island in the Pines died and went to its peaceful reward in the dead manuscript cemetery.

Then your dubious but very Faithful Author spent a few years writing a new book, called “And it’s only Love.” Its obituary can be found elsewhere among these electronic pages. After Only Love was interred, your FA, who isn’t much good at anything outside of writing, eating, and drinking, wandered the empty days bereft and bereaved. It was a sorely dismal sight to behold.

In one desperate, last hope to avoid having the only three things FA can do become two things, he plunged assholes to elbows into the mucky madness of the manuscript cemetery, and started shaking up the pages buried there to see if any showed a shred of hope of revival. He sat down and started reading Island in the Pines and saw right away the cause of death: I itis. That narrator could never have lived for long with such a swollen I. It was a story that needed distance, omniscience, insight, none of which could come out of an infected I.

So FA started from the start, just going through the pages taking out all the first person references and changing them to third. That alone produced a spark of new breath. But during that process, it became evident to the new third person narrator that the deficient first person narrator had missed out on interesting and important aspects of the story — the myopia of the I has that effect, unable to see the world along the sides. Now your FA is well along revitalizing (and digging up) the carcass of Island in the Pines and bringing a new Blossom to life; such a sweet smelling bloom she is, as well.

And he is happy.

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10 replies »

  1. I used to write a lot in first person, but now I really dislike it for the most part. It’s an appropriate vehicle for an arresting voice, I think, a la Ishmael, but for the most part when I encounter that POV, it has no flair.

    It’s also a crutch sometimes with the quick and easy access to interiority, and that crutch so often cripples because the exterior becomes easily ignored.

    A floating third is my favorite. I’m glad to hear you’re whipping it into shape.

    Distance is imperative!

  2. Thanks, you two.

    Brad, you used to write almost exclusively short pieces, which might lend themselves more readily to the interior accessibility of the 1st person. Short work is dense and concentrated. Because I seldom write short pieces, I favor the more objective 3rd person vision. I in the P, Blossom, is the only book I have attempted to write in the 1st person, and that choice killed it.

    Now, on to the work of the resurrection.

  3. Don, so what you’re saying is, we should keep our old drafts, because we never know when we might need them?

    • I do. But a lot of that stuff isn’t a draft, there are finished novels in there, ones that just weren’t good enough to avoid embarrassment. I have a grave robber’s instincts. I have pulled out a character description from a failed short story and built something bigger from her, for example. Danika was once a one paragraph appearance in a five page abandoned story.