Sunday, July 18, 2010

Six Months Later

I know only a few folks are following anything about this novel at this point - six months later. Sometimes life gets in the way of writing.

I also know the folks who are following "the cutting novel" are either writers or aspiring writers. This is sort of how novel writing goes for some of us - six months can pass before we get organized again.

Remember I announced the beginning in December? How I had gotten the voice right and I was sort of ready? I put the novel aside for a couple of months because a nagging voice in the back of my mind just didn't buy it.

I thought the novel was shelved for good. Then, about three weeks ago, I suffered a bout of insomnia, picked up a notebook and admitted the problem: the character wasn't authentic. I was writing it too much "outside" the character - as if what she was experiencing was too icky for Anne Spollen to enter into. So I did enter it. Much more. I took a ton of notes in the early morning hours when the house was quiet. Now I'm working on a brand new beginning and piecing together parts of the older version into the manuscript.
And it's taking shape.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quick Update

The chapters are not behaving. I keep moving stuff around, then back again like a room I can't quite organize correctly. I think this is a good sign that things are beginning to take shape.

I know how that sounds: things are beginning to take shape because they are getting hard to shape. I think if you write, that makes sense. Maybe it does even if you don't write.

First three chapters are done.

I think.

Very difficult stuff to write about. I keep going back to read what people have sent me about their experiences.

And no, it's not a book about cutting. It's about a girl who has a regular life and cuts. I can't stand those books that focus on only one behavior because it's just not like that.

But I can only write this story in short periods of time.

Then again, at least three chapters are done. More or less. I think more than less, so that's progress.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Some News

I just pressed the delete button on 15 pages of this novel. But at least I'm working on it.

The thing is, I read another novel about cutting. There was so much about the girl's cutting behavior that there was not really any kind of plot. Well, very little, just this sort of interior monologue about her feelings of guilt, shame and despair.

I think cutting exists within lives that are not always spare and dry and interior. It's compulsive behavior and the folks who participate in it have full lives with school, friends, interests. So I need to tell the story within the framework of a plot. I just want to make it move faster than those 15 pages allowed.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Weird Twist of Fate

Remember how I got the book just right the other day? Well, that copy is in the compost pile now. If anyone reads this blog and is thinking of writing, that's pretty much how it goes. You think you have just the right voice, the setting, the whole gestalt of it comes together, then --

Something happens and you know what you wrote lacks something.

Usually what it lacks is an authentic feel. I didn't know this until about ten days ago when, through some pretty strange circumstances, I ended up talking to kids who self harm in a hospital.

They were all in therapy and really open in the group. I realized that my little field and school and girl in the story were all pretty mild. The Disney version of the self harming crowd, and if you have read my stuff, you know it's far, far away from Disney anything.

I think I was being too tepid. After talking to the kids, this girl looked at me and said, "None of the books get it right." I nodded. I didn't tell them I wrote, but I asked them if they had read any of the books out there and that was her response.

So, home and the next morning up early and the decision to hit delete, compost the pages and start yet again.

I wrote five pages in about twenty minutes. A lot of it was dialog so it went faster than a narrative would. I think I finally got it right, or close.

Once the beginning is right, the rest falls into place -- at least the rest gets easier. But I think this version is a take.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What I've Learned So Far

I can't stand when people generalize, but I also know it's human nature. I try not to generalize. So when people say to me, "How's the book about the cutters going?" and roll their eyes, I usually say something teacher-y like, "It's just about kids. A girl who cuts. I'm not writing non fiction."

The book is giving me a lot of trouble. Or it was until I woke up the other night and realized I was trying to make the book too normal sounding. Normal sounding to me is dull; I don't write typical YA -- OMG!!! Is that a zit???? kind of YA. And I think I was doing something like trying to make it NORMAL to show that folks who cut are not so much different from say folks who are addicted to tv or food or booze.

I woke up and wrote the first page over, for the seventh time, and I finally think this one is a keeper.

And I do have one generalization about folks who cut (one woman is 52 and has been cutting since she was 15, so it's not just teens). They seem so willing to share their stories, particularly the painful parts. It could be that the Internet makes them able to do this, the anonymity, the sense of confession, all that -- but when I spoke to a friend who is writing about teen alcoholism, she told me she has not found that to be true. She says it's difficult to get teens to open up about their experiences. And teen alcoholism has been "done" (covered by schools, the media) a lot more than cutting.

Maybe I shouldn't make any sweeping statements, but I have found that the people who wrote to me shared experiences that I would have difficulty sharing. It was kind of an amazing deluge.

Is there a common thread? I'm not a psychologist, but there does seem to be early pain, pain that took place sometime in childhood. And of course, there is the sense of shame for their SH behavior. Maybe sharing these experiences is a way out of shame. That's what I am hoping.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

First 15 Pages and I Didn't Delete This Blog

I absolutely could not get the girl's voice right in these pages. I kept deleting to the point where I felt sort of like Dr. Frankenstein: This thing will never live! I was going to scrap the whole idea for this book. That's the way writing is sometimes, at least for me. I'm never calm about any of the words.

I always thought writers sat down (I'm imagining Charlotte Bronte who was the first writer I truly loved) at a desk and wrote away into the night with this content smile.

I'm cursing and deleting and just acting nuts.

I was going to come in and delete this blog, put my notes for this story in the recycle pile, and call it a day.

Then, bing, the writing fairies took pity on me, and I wrote a shaky draft of the first 15 pages, changed everyone's name (weirdly important) and I am normal again.

Well, for me. Hopefully, another 15 pages tomorrow, but more realistically, this weekend since I'm having a three day houseguest.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I can't believe I haven't been here since February! But the good news is I did begin the novel I have been yakking about. I also want to thank all the people who wrote to me about their cutting experiences. Here's an update on the novel:

It's going to be shorter than The Shape of Water, which is 312 pages, and also shorter than Light Beneath Ferns. I'm not sure how long LBF is going to be since the galleys aren't here yet, but I do know that the story is going pretty fast.

The tentative title is Field and the goal is to write five pages a day and have a draft done by August.

What I've learned about cutting from all the anonymous comments on my blog and the longer stories you guys have sent to my email have proved to be invaluable "research" as it will help make the voice of the character that much more authentic.

As you guys have asked, I will keep you updated on my progress. And if you still want to add your comment here, please feel free to do that. As I read your stories, I understand something I knew nothing about a year ago.