Alright, so there’s not much that’s not improved by 1) secluding oneself in a cafe with a cup of coffee, a laptop, and a Stan Getz playlist on the headphones, 2) accomplishing something, and 3) visiting the bookstore. The accomplishment? I was somehow able to shoehorn said pesky scene into chapter 4 yesterday afternoon (with help of aforementioned cafe, coffee, laptop and Stan Getz). Does that scene go in chapter 4? Who knows? But it’s there now, and I am making it work. I wrote a couple of pages while I was at the cafe, which is something, and now I’m ready for today’s writing session.
As much as I spend my time talking about the distinction between fact and fiction and situation and story, I realize that while writing this book I have been a total slave to What Happened and When It Happened. Take this pesky scene. Normally, when I have this much trouble finding a home for a scene, I figure that maybe it’s not the right scene, and should be trashed. But in this case the scene was not even written and needed to introduce characters who reappear later in the book (those scenes are already written), and thus couldn’t be cut.
I find myself recently wishing this book was a novel so that I could spend less time trying to be faithful to What Happened. Sometimes, I will admit, I notice that I will have written a scene, I’m very excited about the way the writing went, and then the next day I will reread it and wonder whether that’s really What Happened. There have been several times that I have had to trash scenes, dialogue, etc. because I realized after the fact that they were what I wished happened, or what I wanted people to think happened, not what actually happened. This is dangerous, a slippery slope. Sometimes I wonder if after all this (and by that I mean a year of J-school, 4.5 years as a journalist, two years in an MFA program concentrating on nonfiction and a lot of vehement defending of nonfiction) I am secretly a fiction writer. Of course there is no reason I can’t do both, but I think most writers feel at heart that they are one thing or another – a poet, a novelist, or whatever. I have always thought at heart I was a nonfiction writer, but what if I was wrong?
Anyway, it’s hard work, having to be concerned with dates and facts and forcing your writing to revolve around those bits of truth. Some days, like yesterday, I would give anything to be able to ignore all that.