Writer At Work

Working on a novel is, it seems to me, a bit like converting to a new faith. Each bit of new information is interpreted in light of the faith’s own logic, confirming, whether in obvious or contradictory ways, the validity of one’s beliefs. Here, at Bread Loaf, I’ve had many occasions to hear people whose job it is to teach fiction, and I’ve been taking bits and pieces from what they’re saying and relating them to my own work.

A few weeks ago, I was riding a great wave of inspiration on my novel, and the writing came easily. Then I hit a wall–I knew that one of my two main protagonists (a college student) wasn’t as well drawn as the other, and I wasn’t sure why. But after a long conversation with one of the fiction writers here, I came to see what wasn’t working. I’d started the story too early. Which was fine, because I was writing to discover the character. Now that this particular mental hurdle has been cleared, I’ll be cutting out another 10,000 words and then moving on. Until the next road block.

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