I had a stroke of inspiration yesterday. It came in the form of a sentence. One single, solitary sentence that will finish “Dolly”. I’m still playing with the arrangement but I have an end. A point of destination. The months of writers block broke with one sentence after layers of plots mingled throughout 56-some-thousand words.
All that struggle for one lousy, amazing sentence.
I wrote about writers block and how I couldn’t figure out what Lisa wanted in conjunction with figuring out what I wanted. It turned out that it wasn’t about what she wanted, but what she needed to learn. In turn, what I needed to learn.
I joined a book club recently with a small group of women. We chose to read “Water for Elephants” as our first book. We meet in two weeks and I just ordered the book. I also need to add that I will be leading the discussion. The hard truth is (and hard truths are the best truths) that this book club will be a challenge for me. I have a hard time reading. In fact, “Eleven Minutes” is the first book I’ve read cover to cover in many years. Like ten. Perhaps it’s my ADD. That would be an easy excuse. I’ve started many books. Like “Back Roads” by Tawny O’Dell. I figured out the end half way through. Or “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Imagine my surprise when she fell in love at the end of the movie. I never saw that coming. Anita Shreve, a personal favorite for many years, failed to take me to the end of “Eden Close” or “Sea Glass”.
What takes me to the end of a book? What’s the magic solution? I find that it comes down to style. Bear with me. I haven’t read genre fiction since High School. It’s not fun to read when you can see the end coming early in the book, which tends to be the case in genre fiction. Take romance novels. Basic format time after time. The man and woman always get together. Happily Ever After. Mysteries? Whodunit is found. That’s the point. So, I ducked into Literary fiction. Ayn Rand enthralled me with “Atlas Shrugged“, but “The Fountainhead” mirrored too close. Even Anita Shreve who captured my interest in “The Last Time They Met” to “Strange Fits of Passion” to “Fortunes Rocks“, started to lose me.
Style. Most writers have little tricks of story telling that, if you read hard enough, will give you the story before the author does. Once you pick up on that, the mystery is gone. I move on.
“Dolly” is by far the greatest writing challenge I’ve ever gifted myself. Five synchronous plot lines. Colorful characters stuffed with insecurities and obscenities. Obstacles that shatter Lisa’s goals like a house of cards in a South Dakota wind. Did the last sentence make the difference? Did I achieve the goal of a novel readers will bury themselves in? I think so.
I may not be able to finish reading what I started, but I’m two chapters from the end of “Dolly” before sending it out into the world to succeed or fail. At least I’m not a quitter. Now, to get through “Water for Elephants” in the next two weeks. Wish me luck!