“I have had my vision…”

So says Lily Briscoe at the close of Woolf’s very masterful novel, To the Lighthouse. Or, more completely and most succinctly, Woolf writes, Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigues, I have had my vision.

Armed with four books, a printout of my manuscript in-progress, and oceans of quiet, I set out on this holiday to prioritize. To create some clarity because I tend to get incredibly excited {and passionate} about many projects, so much so that I wear myself down to exhaustion because I simply want to do everything. Know that moment when you step inside the psychedelic wonderland that is The Chocolate Factory? You turn every which way, as if in a trance, and you imagine it all — the whole of it — and this want prevents you from actual listening for warnings. Seeing the signs as it were. So I tend to get like one of those children in the chocolate factory, all wide-eyed and drowning in the wonder of it all. Which is to say that I took this holiday so that I could listen.

While the trajectory of next year refuses to come into focus, I know this: I have to finish this novel. I’ve decided to put Kindred Spirits and all other projects (except the ones that pay the bills) on hold until I’ve completed a decent draft of the manuscript. A month ago I shipped off a hundred pages to my agent, a shape of something that didn’t take form, and hearing his feedback put me on pause. My novel is more ambitious than I had set out for it to be {isn’t it always?}, and while writing comes naturally to me, creating the architecture for this book unequivocally does not.

The irony that a Type-A woman suffers from structural problems does not escape me in the least.

From unreliable narrators, shifts in time and point-of-view, dissecting the mind and habits of a psychopath, passages that bear allusions to specific poems and speeches, and an ending that has to tie the stories of three very pivotal characters, I not only face the task of having to pull this all off without a single misstep in verisimilitude, the story has to be interesting to me and my characters have to be compelling in their own strange way.

Nathan Englander once took a red pen and gutted out a short story of mine until only a few lines were left. Every word has to be deliberate and operate on so many levels. Every line of dialogue has to move the story and characters along. Every single word on the page has to work tirelessly to earn its keep, and keeping this notion of simplicity against a story that is anything but is proving to be a real challenge for me.

So I need to be surgical and eliminate the distractions, even if it disappoints people. I need to be myopic and commit to this book because I’m the most excited about my writing than I’ve ever been. I’m at the point of my life where I understand my style and voice, and I can finally edit myself in a way that is brutal, yet preserves the integrity of the story.

Tonight you’ll find me in Fiji, hand-editing 150 pages. Creating outlines and timelines — some semblance of structure. Cross all body parts.

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