I did a pinky swear with kellyrfineman to formally start work on MTLB, my next verse novel, TODAY. My goal is to have the first rough draft of the book done by September 1st, if not before so I can’t put it off any longer. Acting class was dismissed early so this is just my procrastination, I mean pre-writing, before I actually dive in. I want to have one new poem roughed out before I go to bed. It will probably be the day that is different. It may not be the beginning of the book but it is a scene that needs to be shown early on and better yet, it is a scene where I already know what happens.
It still surprises me how every book begins differently. Some with a whisper, like Hugging the Rock, and some, like this new one, with a scream.
When I began Hugging the Rock I never intended to write in free verse. I tried everything BUT poetry to find the voice. Yet it was through short poems written in stolen snatches of time that Rachel’s voice came to me. This time I am deliberately choosing the form of a verse novel. And it scares me to death. I have a main character. But there is no voice. I don’t think think there’s a voice. No, I’m pretty sure that I’m just talking to myself and M isn’t talking to anyone. Of course, who could blame her for wanting to stay quiet after what she did. It isn’t like friends are breaking the door down to talk to her. Which is just as well because, like I said, she’s not talking to anyone. She IS doing a powerful amount of thinking. And then there’s that teacher who just can’t resist the chance to meddle in M’s business. Lucky for M she does. If you asked her, and if you could get her talk about herself in the way that shrinks and best friends can make you talk, I think M would say that it all started on Tuesday when her shoe came untied in front of the bus stop on the corner and she bent over to retie it and . . .I don’t think she’s ready to spill the beans yet. I have more of a plot than a voice and I don’t know how to write like that. I’m thinking about backstory and motivation and if it is even an interesting idea or just a collage of cliches when really, all I need is a voice.
If your character refuses to speak to you, how can you tell their story?
I hate the uncertainty that comes with starting a new book, of committing myself to a story as yet untold. What if I can’t find the voice? What if I don’t remember how to tell a story? What if it just plain STINKS? Yes, I know, enjoy the process, which I do. But at the beginning of something new I also go through this “omigosh I don’t think I can ever write a book again” time.
My husband reminds me that this is part of my process. I fall apart, sure that I have forgotten anything I ever knew about how to tell a story. I throw myself against the mountain, again and again, until some little crack breaks open and the story takes off. I’ve done it before and I will do it again. But I’d sure feel better about it all if I had a voice.
And so it begins.