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Novel Neuroses

I am in the process of restructuring and rewriting my novel titled, The Potential of Zeroes. I had the first chapter workshopped this week in a class I'm taking at Lighthouse Writers, and it's nerve racking. I have a vision and words to carry out that vision which I think are clear, but the workshop process reminds me of how limited my vision is not because of missing detail in the story, but because I forget the experience of the reader. I know all the details because of lived with this story in my brain for close to ten years.

My first reaction from the workshop; it's annoying for readers to have to spend too much time thinking.

I intended the homeless, mentally unstable main character of the first chapter to serve as an unreliable narrator, and as such the narrator's thoughts are challenging to follow at times. Plus, he frequently confuses the present and the past. The draft I shared with everyone in class throws the reader in the center of the story which really starts the action of the novel in which he experiences a sort of psychotic break that allows him to end a years-long stint of silence which he believed was protecting the world from the apocalypse (Nothing convoluted about that sentence at all). There are several jumps in time as well as changes from present tense to past tense.

According to my well-read and capable class of seven it was too confusing. It wouldn't get published because it takes too long for the reader to establish where they are in space and time. A part of me really wants to dig in on this point and fight their claims. If a homeless person wrote a novel or told a story it would be hard to follow, right? I'm reminded of the battle between David Foster Wallace's perspective that good writing pushes a reader's limits and makes them think beyond themselves. As compared to Jonathan Franzen who says writing should be purely pleasurable for the reader simply because of the time factor of today's world. Obviously, David Foster Wallace wins this argument in my view.

My class is such a small group of people. Maybe they're just being considerate of other people's opinion. Maybe it isn't too confusing. Maybe one person thought it was too confusing and everybody else just followed that thought. Maybe it's brilliantly confusing. I can't let myself fall victim to this kind of self-righteousness. I'm not David Foster Wallace. Get overself Mattys.

On the other hand, they might be holding back. It's probably not just confusing, but annoyingly confusing. I know when I critique someone else's work and they're in the room, I'm much gentler than I would be if they weren't. In fact, if there weren't the expectation of kind, helpful feedback of my own work dependent upon my own feedback of theirs, I wouldn't bother critiquing others' work at all. For all but a few of the stories I would read the first few pages and drop it at the first hint of annoyance. I have better things to do. So if they said it was confusing I have to take their word for it. I have to fix it, hook readers before throwing them into a homeless person's insanity.

I also have to adapt my novel from third person omnicient to free indirect. Somehow I took multiple creative writing courses in college and missed this apparently crucial aspect of perspective. It has been the in vogue style of writing for, like, the last hundred or so years. According to the Harvard guy teaching the class (His name is John Kotter, and he's actually extremely insightful and helpful in terms of getting a bearing for the writing world, but does check many of the standard Harvard guy checkboxes. God, who am I kidding, I haven't met enough Harvard people to make this statement. I have read a lot of Harvard people, though. I'm not playing the role of teacher, and I don't have the same depth of background as he does in the area of literature and publishing. Seriously, it's like any genre we're talking about he has ten authors he can rattle off the top of his head. It's impressive. He's impressive. Harvard is impressive. I guess I'm kind of a dick about it because I didn't go to Harvard. I have this outsider's chip on my shoulder because of the connections I presume to occur at that school, the inherent priviliege of all ivies. Sure, I'm privileged too, but I didn't get to bump elbows with nationally known authors or future leaders of the country. Hell, I might've at my school, but I'm so frequently quiet upon first meeting people. I talked to people with whom I could share ideas in an equitable exchange. Leaders and, in my stereotype-prone mind, Harvard guys talk more than they listen. John Cotter is not like this. He's knowledgeable, engaging, funny and published. He talks a lot because he knows a lot.) free indirect is pretty much the only way to get published.

So I want to get published. So I have to make these changes. It's arduous, time-consuming and overwelming when I remember that there are 168 pages of 12-point font, single-spaced I have to rework. But it is pretty exciting, too. I can see my writing getting stronger as I make these changes.

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