Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A New Season

Leaves are falling early (thanks in part to Irene), students are arriving on campus (and bringing their glorious sense of teenage hope and eager anticipation), and I am hard at work on a new writing project.

It must be fall.

Spring routinely gets touted as the season of hope, but for educators (and for this writer), fall is the season of beginnings. I try to launch a new project each fall—a story or a longer work—and this autumn an idea for a novel arrived.

As I delve deeper into this new book, I am contemplating the structure of the novel. The first scene, featuring the protagonist, is written in first person, present tense. However, the narrative needs to have multiple points of view; these secondary characters are written in third person, past tense. I don’t consider the first-to-third-person POV switch troublesome for readers; however, the leap from present to past tense has me nervous. Will it put the spotlight squarely on my protagonist? Or will it prove to be jarring for readers? The goal of writing in present tense in this case is to add immediacy and thus tension. It is too early to decide if I should keep it or change it. When I hit the 50-page mark, I’ll get feedback and see what my first readers say.

On the business-of-writing front, as the publishing industry slows down in late summer, I anxiously await word regarding another manuscript already submitted. I try to worry only about what I can control, which is another way to say, Just write, and let everything else work itself out. The best example of this is James Lee Burke, a guy who, for my money, is among the best prose stylists working today. Burke’s The Lost Get-Back Boogie garnered 115 rejections spanning ten years before it was sold—and that drought came during a time when the fiction market was relatively good. He continued to write other novels during that dry spell, never doubting, continually submitting—and writing, writing, writing.

As Fitzgerald wrote, we “beat on, boats against the current” and look forward to a new writing year.

A bit of random news: I sold a short story, “364 Days,” to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine (publication date TBA), and my new Website is up and running. I’d love to get the Type M readers’ thoughts on it.

1 comment:

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Like your new website, John. And congratulations on the short story sale. Prison parenting is an interesting topic. I'll look forward to reading the story.