The last couple of night's catch-up for NaNo / Tokyo Inferno came out a little better than I thought — I'm still behind, but not as grotesquely as I was before.
One of the beauties of last night's run was getting to a point where I understand now what the story is truly about and where it is headed. It was a kind of cards-on-the-table moment, where all the things that mattered most were finally spread out in front of me, and I could see how they were relating to each other.
Something I've had to accept with this book is that it is not the book I started out to write, but that is not a bad thing. The book I set out to write was nothing more than an idea; the book you write is the book you end up with, and it has the benefit of being something you can actually shape and work with. An idea is nothing more than that.
Curiously enough, Janet Fitch (of White Oleander) chimed in earlier this week in the NaNo Pep Talk email with some notes to that effect:
Working on White Oleander, I kept hitting this wall, about chapter 8. It was all going great, all the wheels in motion, and then WHAM. I just couldn't decide what to do next. ... Luckily I was seeing an amazing therapist at the time. ... And she gave me the piece of advice which has saved my writing life over and over again, and I will give it to you, absolutely free of charge. She said, "I know it feels like you have all these options and when you make a decision, you lose a world of possibilities. But the reality is, until you make a decision, you have nothing at all." [Emphasis mine]
When I was barely twenty, I was in what amounted to a doomed collaborative project with another writer. Doomed because neither of us really understood how to pull off or sustain something of the size or scope that we wanted to attempt, and because we were both fairly immature and hotheaded in our own respective ways. We had at least some idea of what we were going to write; my take was, let's just start writing the damn thing and, you know, revise it after. His take was that we had to get everything locked down exactly right beforehand, and so that meant endless rounds of actually writing very little. In the end, we went our separate ways for other reasons, and as far as I know that project hasn't moved forward an iota since. (And, from what I can tell, nothing of value was lost.)
I have to wonder how much of the hesitancy on his part was fear of failure — or, to be more writerly about it, fear of having to endure the drudgery of rewriting. Not all of us are Yukio Mishima, capable of producing a clean first draft that would almost inevitably be sent to the publisher's in exactly that condition. For him, rewriting seemed like an admission of failure in some respect. Well, sure it is — and if you can't admit to a failure of any scope, even a creative project (to say nothing of learning from the mistake), then that doesn't say much about you as a person, or a creator.