Sunday, May 31, 2009

Playing God

I'm not comfortable playing God in the garden, thinning the clusters of white peaches and picking off the Asian pears. Which to toss in the white bucket, and which to keep on the branch? The runty, dimpled fruit? The large, perfect orb sacrificed for two smaller, better spaced ones? Eeny, meeny, miney, moe? Who's to say the peach I choose for the compost is not the one that, if left to ripen on the sun-warmed tree, would be the most succulent, perfect peach?

I feel this same tension writing. Which character do I cull? What scene to annihilate? My finger trembles before striking the 'delete' key - am I making a mistake? Is that character or scene or word crucial to my story's integrity? How do I know?

But when it comes to my story, I am God. Some writers say their characters 'have their way' with stories. Certainly my characters appear to me at times much like a secret word appears under the divining planchette of a ouija board. But as God I can - and do - alter their characteristics and motivations in ways significant and small: their sexual orientation, their ethnicity, the placement of their tattoo.

When my laptop died last week, I had the opportunity to clean up my files. My hesitancy in editing and revising BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT is manifest in the 11 gigabytes of notes and revisions and drafts and even documents containing ALL my slices and dices. My first novel may well end up being my 'practice' novel, but this much is true: my confidence as a writer has grown, for no longer to I keep every iteration uttered by my pen for PURE.


<==== Speaking of playing God, google decreed my blog dead. I say: long live my blog. I'm rebuilding my cyber web, so please sign my guestbook.


May was... a month of passages: a favorite uncle died the day after he entered home hospice, several of my students gained doctorates, dead laptop, murdered blog.

Hoping for a quieter June.


THE WRITING... My mind is finally empty enough to write seriously. PURE full-steam ahead, along with two decent shorts and some micro-mini flashes. Have sent several poems out to find homes - fingers crossed.

THE READING... Finished the fourth book of MIDDLEMARCH. Quite enjoying Eliot, though she would've had a very difficult time finding an agent this century: verbose, pedantic and preachy in places, and not sure she 'hooked' me until nearly 100 pages in. Also picked up two Indie debut books from SOHO and OVERLOOK presses, and two more on order from TIN HOUSE and DZANC. Feeling very rich with the stack beside my bed.

Peace, Linda


  1. 11 gigabytes! Oh my. Them's a lot of words.

    It often strikes me that many great novelists would struggle mightily to get picked up for publication today. Many a wonderful novel would never see the light of day. Times, and tastes, change. So glad we have the wealth of centuries past to draw upon. Imagine a world without Moby Dick.

    Here's too an uneventful but very productive June for you.

  2. I hate thinning the carrots and beets, myself. I never know what lies beneath the surface. It's the worst feeling, pulling out that perfectly shaped, young carrot and knowing it would have been a beauty come September. But, I learned my lesson the first year when all my carrots were too small to bother peeling.

  3. Linda,

    I am sorry for your loss, and for the stressful month you've had regard the technical woes. Like Jon, here's to hoping you have a better month in June.

    Take care.

    (BTW, since you're rebuilding, can you switch out Even The Trees with Powder Burns and Bullets? Thanks.)

  4. Jon, it IS a lot of words - but most repeat themselves. My paranoia of letting go of the wrong bit of info...

    Greta, I know the culling is necessary, but it's the decision making that is so hard. I would not be a good dictator.

    Steve, thanks. Yours was one of the sites I didn't have in my follow list, so thanks for the nudge. Are we keeping 'the trees' as a placeholder?

    Happy Monday! Peace, Linda

  5. Sorry about your uncle.

    I'm weird I guess ad I seldom keep revisions. I will keep phrases or snipets, I save them in my journal and hope that when the time is right they will marry with words into what they were meant to be.

    I even shred my hand written starters, my Beloved hates that I do that.

    Oh well I can only be so perfect ya

  6. Paige, I'm cringing.

    Linda, coincidentally I had a very similar conversation with my neighbor about growing vegtables. (She's an artist...must be something in the creative-blood). When I planted this year, if the package said plant 5 seeds, pluck 3, then I'd just plant 2 seeds and hope for the best. So far, very few total "restarts".



  7. Linda-
    Great post (although I'm sorry to learn about your uncle's passing - I will hold a thought for him). Love the analogy re: thinning the garden and paring down the prose...I've tried to live by Elmore Leonard's words:

    "I try to leave out the parts that people skip."

    Everything I write is personal for me and the hardest thing sometimes is taking a sentence - paragraph -chapter that reads so well and cutting it out because it just doesn't work in the context of the story. And even though many of the characters I write can take on a life of their own and a certain flow once they hit the paper, I reserve the right to be God-like and modify their behavior when it doesn't work for me (got to let them know who's boss!).

    Best regards!


  8. Hi Linda,

    Like so many writers, I was a smartarse in high school. I did one of those "What's your perfect career?" exercises and discovered that for me, the most important thing is having God-like powers.

    And that's why I write novels :)

    I rarely keep backups, although recently when I deleted huge plotlines from one of my books (the heroine's marriage, including having a kid who was the main character for the already-written third book!) I did keep the old version.

    With great power comes great responsibility.

  9. Thanks all for dropping by - I just noticed all your comments! Life's been... spazzy. How's that for a descriptor?

    Paige, Felicity - I bet neither of you are packrats. Come, look into my closets, my bottom drawers, my basement... like my file folders, very scary.

    And yes, I love the power that comes with playing God... er, writing novels.

    Kevin, yes, the cuts make me ache; then, like the sting of iodine, I forget how it hurts.

    Peace, Linda