Wednesday, May 26, 2010

When do you open the door?

"I never talk about a book until I'm finished writing it. And, I like to be alone when I write. It took me a year and a half to write Holes, and nobody knew anything about it, not even my wife or my daughter." Louis Sachar, website

"Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open." Stephen King, ON WRITING.

When do you open the door?

When I started Project Sparkle, I chose to emulate Sachar. Even Phil, with whom I frequently talk through writing difficulties, only knew I was writing a new book. When my mom asked about it, I felt crazy guilty, but all I wanted to say was "it's a young adult novel set in Chicago." The story was still emerging, bit by bit, and I was afraid if I discussed it with anyone, or even shared my idea, the story would evolve into something different, not my first vision.

Of course, my door wasn't completely closed. On my program I have to share new writing every two weeks! But I focused on workshopping only the first few chapters. I didn't realize how cagey I had been until a month ago, when I said quite casually over lunch what was going to happen to one of the minor characters. Everyone at the table was shocked. They hadn't known. I guess I kept the door pretty secure.

At the end of March I finished the rough draft. But instead of busting the door open, it's been a slow reveal. Mid-April I read a synopsis aloud to my class. I shared a chapter by chapter outline with my tutor, Julia, at the beginning of May. At the end of April, I read a short excerpt aloud at a student event. Phil graciously helped me practice, and once he knew the beginning, I started chatting through other sections with him. This past week Julia read the entire climax, which was really scary, as I knew it didn't quite work and was still a rough draft. Since the plot is still rough, I've been chatting about it with practically anyone who will listen over the past week. Yesterday in class I presented my whole outline and had my classmates pick it apart and brainstorm with me (extremely helpful!).

So, yeah, I guess the door is pretty wide open now. But the process has felt very natural and organic. Rather than flinging my door open, I've stuck my nose in the crack and peeked out. My classmates, tutor and writing friends have peeked in, always encouraging and helpful. And slowly I've gained the courage to open the door a little bit more and then a little bit more.

The funny thing is, I think I'm about to close the door again. I've gotten my feedback, I have a lot of revision to do, and I want to get back to work. Perhaps I'm starting the second draft and closing my door all over again. I'm thankful I have the whole summer in front of me in which to pull everything together. Hopefully by this fall, the door will be ready to be opened wide to everyone.

And because now I can't get this song out of my head:

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