Sunday, October 3, 2010

Notes on a Work in Progress: A Huge Gaping Hole

You can write and write and write. The same scene, in fact, over and over. You can stare at the sentences, you can ponder the subtext, you can worry over the dialogue. You can practice reading it out loud in your living room. You can sit in the chairs at the council meeting as you wait your turn and tinker with the prose, adding a comma and then taking it out again.

And then you're at the podium and you realize there's a hole in the narrative. The part where Charlie is in her car, wondering why that woman from the fiction stacks has been spying on her? The part where she says hm, how odd and then just changes the subject so abruptly, without so much as a whisper of transition? That's the hole. That's the huge gaping hole that's crying out for a paragraph--even a few damn sentences--of physical description. What does Virginia look like, through Charlie's eyes? This is the moment, the only moment, where such a description would be possible (critical!), and for three years I've been skimming right over it. Missing the opportunity.

The act of revision means to see again, to see anew, to re-see. Reading the novel aloud to the people of Tucson has changed my relationship to the novel, just as writing it has changed my relationship to the city. I'm seeing them each differently now, holes and all.