Thursday, September 19, 2013

Starts and Stops

John here.

As some might have noticed, I missed my post this past week. Accept my apologies. My absence, in part, supports this week's column.

As I've mentioned before, two weeks ago, I started a new job, chairing the English department at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Mount Hermon, Mass. It's an exciting step in my "career life," and I'm enjoying it. But I've been busy. The department is large (17 members), and I'm charged with bringing new pedagogical ideas to the table and made a speech before 800 my first week on the job.

But there are changes, too, in my "writing life." I have a three-book contract that I'm over the moon about. Bitter Crossing, the first book in a series about a single mother and border patrol agent, will be published this spring. And the deadline for the sequel is May 1. I try to be relentless about rising early to write before work, but, admittedly, I have missed several days this month, and I'm finding it difficult to maintain (and relocate) the novel's narrative flow.

Stephen King says, in On Writing, you should never take longer than three months to finish a book. For me, chairing, teaching, living in a dorm with 45 teenage girls (and raising three of my own) – and writing – it takes nine months to a year to finish a novel. So starts and stops occur.

I'm 125 pages in, but I've found myself starting at page one to re-read the whole thing again to find the narrative flow – three times and counting. It's not a fun way to work. (As a dyslexic, this process includes listening to everything using the text-to-speech option.) I'd much rather use the Hemingway trick of stopping mid-sentence each morning, rising the next day and simply boarding the train again. But when you miss a couple consecutive days, it becomes extremely difficult to pick up where you left off. At least that's how it is for me.

If anyone has suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

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