Sunday, March 16, 2008

As I suspected, providing content for a writer's blog is challenging. What do people talk about in these spaces? The process? The "biz"? I don't know anything about the biz and only enough about the process to recognize it makes for boring Internet content. (but riveting classroom fodder, the unemployed workshop instructor said)

How about numbers? Numbers I can do. At this moment I have 63,000 words in the rewrite of the novel I wrote for my MFA thesis. If I'm smart, I'll land the thing around 90k since anything more makes a debut novel hard to sell. Over 100k and many agents won't read the first sentence. That might not be true in genre fiction, but for the sort of "upmarket" literary drek I trade, it's mostly the case. Until it isn't, that is. If you wrote a stunning debut novel to follow your torrid run as a short story wunderkind, you could bang out any word count you liked.

My idea is to make my book not a single word longer than necessary. I don't think the story requires more than 100k, no matter what the market prefers. I'm shooting for 90.

As a rewrite of a novel I'd already revised, I don't consider the material in 'first-draft' condition. What I mean is that it's somewhat better than awful, benefiting from what I learned about the characters, their motivations and conflicts, and all the list slippers worn by their favorite clerks, etc, in the first book. You don't know until you write them. You may think you do. I also know their El stops, how many gigs you can buy in a "saddle," and how the sun peeks over Lake Michigan April mornings in Grant Park.

Remedy Wheel interweaves the lives of four Chicagoans in 1934: Candace Harris, a young woman working for Chicago Telephone, her father, Thomas, who owns a candy store in Bronzeville; Oscar Candelero, a teenaged son of Italian immigrants who leaves home in Upstate New York to see the World's Fair and have sex with the fan-dancer Sally Rand; and Haley Carter, a young woman from Sandusky, Ohio, running numbers to save enough money to bring her terminally-ill father to Dr. Frederic Bartlett, an English neurologist visiting New York that spring.

The characters run headlong into the competing faiths of the day: science and technology, trumpeted by the World's Fair as 'mankind's' salvation, the vibrant South Side storefront church scene, replete with hucksters and faith healers like the enigmatic Elder Lucy Smith, pastor of Langley Avenue All Nations Pentecostal Church, and plain old vice: the lucrative "Policy" games which generate so much economic activity, jobs, and violence.

It's pointless to say much more. I hope I finish it soon and sell it soon after.