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Process letter to my advisor:

May 6, 2007

Dear XXXXX,

How have you been? Things are going well up here, although I feel like I fell behind a bit with this packet. We had an early Spring where the sun was out… and suddenly I was feeling all inspired to write… then a couple weeks ago the clouds rolled back in and it’s been rainy and gross. You’d think the rain would’ve made me hole up indoors ready to write, but it seems to have had the opposite effect on me.

Anyway, here is packet three. Dang, it seems like every time I sit down to take a breath, it’s time to turn in another one. This packet contains two annotations, my revisions for my first critical paper, and about thirteen pages of my creative work. For this packet I did annotations for the Comte de Lautreamont and Dostoyevsky. I had planned on doing one for the Jung autobiography, but got about twenty pages into reading it and realized I needed to slow down. I am really enjoying it so far and think it would’ve fit well with the Dostoyevsky and Comte de Lautreamont, but I think it is too critical of a read for the work I am doing to just plow through. I need more time to stew on some of these books! Hopefully I can make up the extra annotation in this packet or the next one, but if not I’ll have to be happy with fourteen.

For this part of my creative work I went to the chapter just before the last bit I sent in. It is kind of an odd chapter and is a little clunky in places, but builds on the beginning of the book when the kid first gets on the train (I don’t think you’ve read that part). A lot of the previous work revolves around him overhearing bits of conversations from some woman on the train who is sitting behind him a few seats. He can’t really see her, but her talking bleeds into his thoughts and guides them along certain channels of thinking. There is a lot of his commentary on her stories as well, as he listens for a while, then switches over to listening to music, then goes back to her conversation at a later point. He’s not overly interested in what this unseen woman has to say, but I’m interested in exploring this liminal space when someone is on a plane, bus, or train, and pieces of other people’s life bleed into your thoughts.

In this chapter he is focusing on a bizarre fictitious movie that is playing on the train. Sometimes he is listening to the movie while he watches, and other times he might be listening to the train’s idle chatter while simply watching the picture. This chapter builds on the pattern of overheard snippets of stories being overlaid to inform the main character’s inner monologue. The movie’s plot is pretty self consciously odd, and hopefully gives the novel one of its first glimpses at the structure the later part of the novel might lurch into.

Once again I’m jumping around in my novel’s timeline. I was all gung-ho to continue writing the rest of the chapter I sent in last time (after your feedback), but then waited a couple days before starting… and lost the “fire”. I guess the moral is: write when the subject is hot. I instead chose to go back and write up to the point when the reader first sees the guy who dated the ghost get on the train.

I’m kind of in this weird place… I know where the story needs to go, but I don’t know how it gets from the point I wrote to in the story to the next point. The kid is on this train. He meets the guy. They interact, but there’s no BIG bond between them. The guy makes an offhand remark about how the kid should come see the place where he’s going… and the kid unexpectedly decides to take the guy up on his offer and gets off the train. How do I get the kid to follow the guy home and have this other adventure without having it seem dumb or too contrived?

The guy talks about how there is some minor celebrity who owns a ranch outside the town where he’s going. The kid wants to see for himself and goes out with the guy’s nephew and camps outside the compound and just watches her for a couple days. I want this brush with observing celebrity to be rather anticlimactic for the kid and maybe a little disillusioning for him. There’s a bunch of other weird stuff thrown in, but eventually he wanders off and discovers this underground pond connected to a well that houses a cave where all these dreams, aspirations, tv shows, and movies have pooled into over the years. Some dreams are heavier and denser than others, so they don’t rise up and escape into the ether. The kid has to resolve this, then get back on the train to visit his dad. Sounds easy enough, right?

I just am not sure how to logistically get him off the train. It needs to be a sort of crisis for him, like he has been on this path all his life and is suddenly desperate to break the rules and change course. I should probably go back and study Notes from the Underground more. How did that character have his big break? I want my character to make a choice to go out of character and follow this different path. Any suggestions?

I suppose I could go back and write the supplemental scenes from the TV show Stalking America, but the voice is completely different and I suspect that those will be better if I flesh them out after the bulk of the main story is written. I suspect they will be stronger if I choose to have them illuminate themes from the kid’s story or directly contrast with what he thinks by writing them at a later point.

I’m also trying to figure out a way to take a cross-country train trip this summer if possible. I’ve taken shorter train rides and have ridden on planes and busses for extended trips, but that’s not the same. There is a lot of detail that I can’t currently supply and I also think the rhythm of going across country will help me figure out the shape and structure of the kid’s journey.

I think that will help. I am planning on doing my second critical paper for my next packet, but I am oddly dreading it for some reason. I’m not really sure why. I’m still not sure exactly what I’ll write about… Any suggestions? How are other people doing with their packets? I guess that’s one of the odder things about doing this program. I don’t really get to see what other students are working on or directly feed off of their work like I would in a classroom environment. What have you been up to? Are you going to be at Goddard next semester? I’m already coming up with a few books for my list like Arabian Nights, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Miranda July’s new book, a biography on Darby Crash Lexicon Devil… oh and maybe even a few sections from the Zohar if I’m up for it! I hope you are well!

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