Monday, July 12, 2010

Swimming with Caroline Leavitt

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:
Wordswimmer: What's the hardest part of swimming?

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.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment