Thank you, Lynda Barry!

I thought her NaNo pep talk was interesting. I loved this piece of wisdom: “You can’t know what a book is about until the very end. This is true of a book we’re reading or writing.”

That seems to be true for me. I can give you a one-sentence description of most of my NaNo buddies’ novels. But I can’t do it for my own. I don’t know what genre it is; it doesn’t have a title. (To be honest, Tap Dancing at the County Fair is as good as anything, better than most.) I have essentially two different story lines that I hope will merge at the end. I have a pretty good idea of how and when they’ll merge, but as to whether they will actually blend in a satisfying way? Oy.

road_tripI started writing what I thought would be a woman’s belated coming of age, what-am-I-doing-with-my-life road trip story as she headed off to the hinterlands for a high school reunion, her first in at least 30 years. That’s based loosely on me: I went to a college sorority reunion this summer and caught up with friends I hadn’t seen in *gasp* 40 years. It was a good opportunity, before, during and after, to look at expectations, what my friends and I have done with our lives, the surprises, the ‘oh, yeahs.’

But are these thoughts interesting and well, novel, enough for a page-turning novel, especially from someone with my limited talents and a 30 day deadline? As I was galloping along the word count highway with Becca, my protagonist and alter ego, I was getting bored, and boring. Becca has picked up a motley crew of fellow travelers along the way, and Reba, Buddy, Libby and her snake, Roy, are spicing up Becca’s life and journey, but still, she can be a self-righteous little prick. I got stuck.

So I followed Michael Ondaatje’s advice to work on another scene. I started another story line, this one with a clearly delineated Bad Guy, Leona, and the motif of this story line is: Revenge is sweet. This is in my Carl Hiaasen wanna-be mode, and it is definitely different in tone from Becca’s saga. It’s much more slapstick and humorous. It’s been fun to write so far, but I’m stuck again and so I’ll go back to Becca’s story in my writing today.

Question+Mark+and+The+Mysterians+-+96+TearsDoes any of this rambling make sense? What do you think of a novel that flips in tone from chapter to chapter? Can that work? I’m writing in 3rd person and not getting too deep into any one character’s head; the narrator is trying to be an impartial observer.
The difference in tone thing worries me, though I can work on that in December and beyond, I suppose, if it seems like there’s anything salvageable here. At this point (I reached the 25,000 word mark last night! I made brownies to celebrate – help yourself. ) I’m not going to scrap anything, but I sure have NO IDEA if any of this can work. I’m definitely NOT editing as I go along, and I’m trying to follow Lynda Barry’s advice to not even go back and look at anything I’ve written to date.

What do you think? I welcome any feedback from my esteemed friends.

6 comments to Thank you, Lynda Barry!

  • What you may end up with in the end is two seperate books that take similar journey’s. Which in my opionion would make an interesting series.
    I have written three short stories all about the same camping trip. Each from a different perspective. They are so diverse that you wouldn’t know you were reading about the same trip unless I told you.

  • Nancy

    You might be right, DS, about the two separate books. I am asking each of my characters what they want more than anything else in the world and I’m seeing some real divergence between the characters in the two story lines.

    Still, there are a couple of similarities, and if I can just tie those together…..

    But I won’t know what the book is truly about until the very end, will I?

  • These are good questions. I think many, many books have two plots-or story lines. I know most romance novels do–at least the good ones.
    I have a friend that only reads James Patterson. She pushed and pushed me to read him so I tried once. The book was named Sail, and I was surprised at how many POV characters he used. Every chapter changed to a different character and some characters were written third person, some written first person. I don’t remember ever reading a book written like that. I may have before I became a writer and just didn’t notice, but it was strange to switch from reading him, her, and them to reading I, you, and us.
    I think it’s fairly common to have two characters telling a different story when their written in third person.
    I don’t think the difference in tone will hurt, if anything it should make it more interesting. You could also write one character close and the other moderate.
    Think of great mystery novels were you read a chapter from the victim or hero then switch to the villain.
    These are my opinions anyway, coming from someone who reads more mass-market novels. You won’t see these antics used in great literature. I guess it depends on what market or type of reader you’re trying to target.
    Anyhoo—I can’t wait to read it!

  • Nancy

    Hey! I thought our stuff was supposed to be Great Literature!

    I’m not so concerned about changing POV, which I do with dizzying frequency, but with the TONE. That’s what I’m worried about, the disconnect between two tones. It might work, but I don’t know yet.

    I used to commute between NC and Los Angeles so for a couple of years I ONLY read books you could buy at the airport bookstore.

    Now I’m not reading so much because I don’t have that captive airspace. Kind of miss it.

    I don’t want to write the great American novel, but I sure wouldn’t mind going to the beach and seeing a couple of people reading my latest while they’re slathering on the sunscreen and listening to the radio.

  • According to Chris Baty 50k in 30 days does not make great literature but I believe you can overcome this handicap. Either way you will have at least one person on the beach reading your novel–me!

  • Nancy

    Yes!! Thank you! I’ll bring the sunscreen, you bring your novel playlist for your iPod.

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