Witch-white and apple bright

I finished Plain Kate by Erin Bow a few days ago. Please do yourselves a favor. Run, do not walk, to your nearest local bookstore and buy a copy. It was one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. I think it will go on my list of books I would bring to a desert island alongside The Last Unicorn, The Pedant and The Shuffly and a collection of Federico Garcia Lorca’s poetry. I don’t want to talk about my experience reading it or about how I feel after having done so because I don’t want to give anything away.

I’m feeling a bit better about my novel at the moment. Really I feel so silly wibbling about writing on the internet in front of a bunch of other writers, but it’s so important to me to get this right that sometimes I crack. I think that’s my main problem right now, that I keep thinking there’s a right way to do this and I just have to find it and everything will fall into place. But going back to what my advisor said about playing and experimenting, I realized that this is a great opportunity to try different things to see what they do. What happens if I start the story here as opposed to there? What is the effect on the reader? How does this change the feel of the story? Because it’s not about right or wrong. Not exactly. It’s about feeling my way to the story I want to write and because I’m still not sure about a lot of things I can and should be playing.

This novel in particular is difficult because I’m so emotionally attached to the original short story. But I’m not the same person I was when I wrote it. I’m not the same writer. I need to let go. I need to get to know my characters better, their pasts and their presents. I wrote today in an essay that “ultimately, the story should belong to the character and so every detail, every moment of telling should deepen the reader’s knowledge and understanding of that character.” Now I just need to follow my own advice, lol. That’s the challenge with a novel like this. I want to veer away and tell anecdotes about the different characters and the world because they’re funny. However, that does not a novel make.

I also noticed reading through some of the other things I’ve written how different the voice or tone of this novel is compared to them. It’s silly and all over the place whereas my other stories have more of a poetic fairy tale feel. They do have humor, too. Apparently I am incapable of writing without at least a little humor or irony, but they’re richer and more focused. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with silly. I enjoyed Patricia C Wrede’s Enchanted Forest books, though I’ve only read the first two. They make me laugh. They’re clever. But if you stripped away the humor there would be very little left, certainly no substance. So I’m asking myself: what kind of book do I want to write?

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