Never Look Up

TerminatorAlmost halfway there, at 35,000 words, and still worried. I just drafted chapter 14 of my novel-in-progress. Fifteen has to take a sharp turn so that’s why I’m stalling. Usually I conceptualize moves that take a couple of chapters to play out, but when I get to a major turn, I have to step back from the trees to see the forest again. And that’s where the trouble begins.

The last couple of chapters have been very talking-heady. I move the characters around, put them in interesting restaurants, have them walk down city streets, sit in a living room, but it’s still talking heads. Always in the middle of a novel, readers and writers alike complain of saggy pace.  Is it time to have a man with a gun appear in a doorway?

The reason for all the talk is that the characters are discussing/arguing about the nature of consciousness. It’s the humans vs. the androids, and that’s the whole point of the novel. If I wanted a straight adventure story, I would have gone all Terminator by now. But this is supposed to be an epistemological exploration, because that’s what interests me and that’s who I am.

When my agent (love saying that!) agreed to represent my first android novel, I was surprised, and confused. “How will you sell it?” I asked him, “It’s so intellectual.” That novel was also an epistemological inquiry. He didn’t seem fazed, and who am I to question a professional?

I haven’t heard a peep from him since that day, so naturally, my mind wanders to the worst scenario: total defeat. Rejection letters still trickle in on that manuscript, which I sent out last May. They say, “Sorry, couldn’t get into it.”  What I take away is, “Too intellectual, not sentimental enough, too much talking heads, not enough action, flat characters, piece of crap.”

And here I am writing in the same style again. Am I digging my own grave? And yet, I wouldn’t be doing it if one person out of 50 agents hadn’t said, “Yes, I can sell this.”  It only takes one. And I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t believe I have something original to say about how the mind works. On the other hand, nobody cares what I think.

This is why you don’t want to lift your eyes and your thoughts too far from the chapter you’re working on. If you look up from the work, all you see is scorched earth and desolation. So it’s best not to look up.  I’m going to finish this thing because I can. If it ends up moldering in a drawer, at least I got it out of my system and I can say I have experience in writing a sequel.


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