Wordswimmer: What's the hardest part of swimming?I really liked Leavitt's earlier novel, Girls in Trouble and am looking forward to her next novel, Pictures of You, due from Algonquin next January.
Leavitt: The self-doubt that comes on like muscle cramps. The realizing that there are better swimmers who are further out there, and that no matter what I do, they’ll always be further out (which leads to the realization that it’s not a competition and that’s a mighty big ocean out there). When I can’t get something right, self-loathing sometimes rears its ugly head. Sometimes I forget that I know how to write, that I’ve had story problems before and solved them, and I sink into deeper despair.
What’s hardest for me is the length of time it takes to finish a novel. I know it takes me a year to figure out what I really am writing about. It takes me another year to realize my wrong turns. Last year, after two years of work, I threw out 100 pages of my novel and started all over again, but this time I feel as though I finally got it right. When I first start a novel, it’s always filled with false starts, way too much back-story (do we really need to know the character’s life as a baby?) and characters who wander in from another novel I haven’t written yet. I don’t know if there’s an easier way to do this, but this seems to be my process.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Over at Wordswimmer, Caroline Leavitt talks about the writing process and how to keep on going during dry patches, muscling through self-doubt, eating chili-infused chocolate to jump-start the brain, et cetera. The interview has a few too many water/swimming metaphors for my taste, but given the name and nature of the blog, I guess that's to be expected. Overall, though, I thought Leavitt had some good practical advice to dispense. For example: