|The Cheshire Rabbit|
Novel Slop Buckets and something akin to happiness
I am working on a novel. I am always working on a novel. I completed the first rough draft of my first novel manuscript more than 30 years ago. Since then, I have completed a few other first rough drafts and started more than 25 novels, most of which are unfinished for a variety of reasons. None of them are published, though I have published poetry and short stories in literary journals. No “real” books.
Since I am now sixty-nine years old, headed toward the big seven-OH, there's a good chance I will die without ever publishing any of my novels. So, why do I keep writing? Why don't I just "relax and enjoy life?"
Because, for one things, I enjoy writing.
For another, if I am truthful, I always harbor the perennial hope of getting published, slim though it may be.
The novel I am currently working on is called Discovery at Little Hog Island. Dana, a fifty-five year old Kindergarten teacher, takes a biology class that requires a summer project. She arrives in Maine only to stumble onto a suspicious death that occurred 35 years ago. Curiosity gets the better of her, and she becomes embroiled in a story that begins to threaten her life and stir up unpleasant memories from her own past.
I posted parts of this novel on one of my blogs, but discovered that it is difficult for people to follow a novel in blog installments. My readers kept dwindling. Or maybe it was just a terrible novel. But I like it.
In addition to Little Hog Island, my primary novel, I am also working on several others that I keep bubbling on the back burners. The work stove I keep them on is large and has lots of back burners, some further back than others. Each is a bucket, a slop bucket into which I keep throwing ideas, characters, scenes, conflicts. Am I organized about it? Not hardly. I can’t even aim for the rights buckets, sometimes, or there may be several buckets for the same novel.
For example, Rema and Romula. They are twin girls who were raised by wolves. They'll probably never found a city. And the book may not be named after them. I often work on Rema and Romula while I am walking. It is difficult to work on a novel while walking, because it is large and unwieldy. I can't see much of it at once, to review it and edit it, so unless I can give myself some small assignment, I have to work on something new. Thus, Rema and Romula. I am gathering ideas, accruing inspiration, creating characters, imagining scenarios.
I love writing. I become quite pleased with myself when I write something I like, whether it's interesting (to me), funny (to me), smart (to me), or pleases me in some other way, it makes me happy. (The first person I intend to please and entertain is myself!)
I become despondent when I can't write, or when I decide something I've written is bad or hopelessly flawed. Sometimes, writing can be a roller coaster. The smallest thing can please me or knock me down.
One of the things I collect in my novel slop buckets are names and nicknames. Finding the right name for a character is crucial (to me), so when I succeed, it can send me into fits of smiling. And I know not everyone would agree with my choices. Some of them would seem downright odd.
For example, in Rema and Romula, two teachers play primary roles in the as of yet unwritten novel (I've written maybe four or five chapters, some or all of which may need to be rewritten or jettisoned.) One of the two important teachers is Mr. Alan Mallain. He is black, in his thirties, large, muscular, handsome, and wears long braids tied back in a pony. He's married, heterosexual.
The kids, in the habit of nicknaming all their teachers with fairly negative nicknames, call him Malign. They also call him Bo-bo because of his "repeating" name. Then one of the girls starts calling him Malificent. The others object. He's not female, he's not little, and he’s not a fairy (at which the boys all laugh). It’s too long; it’s cumbersome. Someone even says, "He's not bad". But Argiki says, "He bad" and when Argiki says "bad," he means really, really good. Keisha points out that Mr. Mallain is magnificent. And everyone agrees. Malificent sticks. It's somehow a perfect nickname for the kids to call him.
And I feel something so akin to happiness, I could readily label it "joy." Such fun.