“Side by side with the human race there runs another race of beings, the inhuman ones, the race of artists who, goaded by unknown impulses, take the lifeless mass of humanity and by the fever and ferment with which they imbue it turn this soggy dough into bread and the bread into wine and the wine into song…I see this other race of individuals ransacking the universe, turning everything upside down, their feet always moving in blood and tears, their hands always empty, always clutching and grasping for the god out of reach: slaying everything within reach in order to quiet the monster that gnaws at their vitals.” —Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer (1934)
I’m at the point of the writing process where I nearly go mad with frustration. I forgot what it was like to be here, within four chapters of finishing the first draft of a novel. It haunts me day and night. I get crabby with people for no reason other than I have all these words in my head, and all I want to do is write. With fountain pen in hand late at night with a scotch on the rocks, or typing into Scrivener like a mad pianist during the day, blaring the soundtrack to Battlestar Galactica. (That cover of “All Along the Watchtower” just does something to me…my Muse is usually fairly mellow, but that soundtrack…)
I’m taking a brief sabbatical from my teaching assistant gig so I can focus on getting this novel completed. Finish first draft by end of June at the very latest. Review, revise, read again. Send to an editor. Revise again. And so on….by New Year’s Day, I want this novel to be out there so I can get to the next work, the novel I wrote for National Novel Writing Month. By the end of 2013, three historical novels will be out in the world, and I can turn my attention to the long epics that I have been researching for years. I’m not entirely done with historical fiction, but I need a change of genre for a while. A marvelous opportunity in the world of indie publishing. The freedom to explore. (As always, J.A. Konrath covers this well on his blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. See this article for not only for excellent advice on promotion, but also the approach to take as a writer)
In my part-time teaching assistant job, I spent the last term focusing on Modernist literature of Paris in the 1920s. I had always stuck to the classics of Victorian literature, epic fantasy, and dense, complex pieces like Gormenghast. This pared-down, often Cubist style of writing was a revelation. I fell in love with the works of Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, and Djuna Barnes. Hemingway and Henry Miller affirmed for me the connection between art and writing and inspiration.
1920s Paris was all about experimentation in the arts. While it’s certainly true that it still exists, it seems as though the mainstream doesn’t look to innovation in the arts. A formula becomes successful. Similar works follow the formula, until its popularity dwindles. Then the revised formula comes along. Shiny, loving vampires; zombies; the lone traveler seeking meaning in some kind of spirituality… I’ve never been a mainstream kind of girl. While others listened to Duran Duran in high school, I listened to Einstürzende Neubauten. The best thing about today’s indie publishing movement is that like Paris of the 1920s, there is freedom to experiment, and there are no gatekeepers to bar the way to being seen. James Joyce self-published Ulysses. What dearth of literature as we know it would exist if innovators didn’t self-publish as they saw fit? Not that I’m James Joyce, but people read my work and write nice reviews, and for that I am incredibly grateful. I do appreciate the ability to change genres, writing style and voice, and develop my writing skills in ways that I may not have been able to if I had gone a more traditional path.
And so here I sit…venting on my blog…listening to the Battlestar Galatica soundtrack. Behind this document I am typing, Scrivener is open, and the last four chapters of Dark Lady of Doona are glaring blank pages, demanding an end to the story. I guess I had better go write.