My current novel revision ends in July. Full stop. Do not pass the revision mark again until the good lady (or lord, should it come to that) says so.
Am I pleased? I am pleased!
I know that revision doesn’t stop there. Revision doesn’t stop until the novel’s in print. And even then, in that magical unicorn future where my novel exists in a glue-bound form instead of stacks of 8.5 x 11” pages, I’m sure that I’ll revise in my nightmares. But for now, it’s out of my hands and off to be rejected or dismissed or lost in an agent’s spam folder. And you know what that means:
NEW NOVEL! [insert confetti cannons and glitter bombs]
I don’t have a hard time coming up with novel ideas. I do have a hard time nailing down which novel idea to pursue. My novel idea list is about as long as a Cheesecake Factory menu. Gah! Too many options. If I order the chicken, I’m gonna regret it and want your steak. That’s just the way it is.
With my menu options–and my novel–sometimes I just want an executive decision. Jesus! Take the wheel!
Spin the Wheel on the Novel
At Bukowski Tavern, there’s a beer wheel that you can spin. Whatever you land on, that’s what you’re buying, folks*. How thrilling to let chance decide! In similar fashion, I took a spin through a handful of my more concrete novel options:
A short story that I may turn into a larger story about a woman who books a vacation specifically to fake her suicide and start a new life. #notamemoir
Mean Girls, Versailles.
Teen bully drama: Y’allll. Let me just say that there were no cell phones when I was in junior high. We had to actually pass notes and censor ourselves in case we got caught. This whole notion of cell phones in classrooms wigs me out from a deep place of junior high trauma. The minute I put the name of an app or social media tool or some other not-teenage-way-of-saying-or-doing-something in my novel, you know it will be over. Like, snapchat? If I know about it, teenagers are over it. And, guys, I’m not a dillweed. I work in IT.**
Teens trapped between Heaven and Hell. Why? Because Hell Don’t Have Cell. (Sorry, I got carried away thinking about the movie rights and accompanying posters and the idea of not integrating current technology into the narrative).
Let’s be honest, I can’t leave it up to chance. My luck is certified, grade A bad. This decision requires more scrutiny.
The Nose Knows What’s Next
Even with only partial use of one my nostrils for reasons unknown to me or the nose doc, I have a powerful sense of smell that goes beyond ordinary human beings. If I only had two working nostrils, I could have had a beautiful career as a perfumer.
I use that power of smell to further guide me toward my next novel. Like an oracle, my olfactory unit pings my creative unit when I’m out for a walk:
Salty ocean air, stale coffee gaggy plane air, plastic molding press, blood
Berries, roses, blood
Pencils, popcorn, B.O., dust from dirt, blood
Dust from dirt, burning rubber, blood
Asphalt, heavily lacquered wooden booths, industrial carpet, burnt bagels, loud perfume, blood
Okay, maybe I don’t smell the blood. (Maybe I do.***) But by the time I arrive home, I’m able to approach the blank page not as a barrier but as a canvas onto which I can spill the first strings of character and narrative that the sensory information brought to mind. It may take many walks before I nail down one idea. But that’s okay. I need the exercise.*
These walks are why I’ve been able to keep at my current novel for so many years. Every summer around this time, I walk by a fence attached to a parking garage near Kendall Square. The sweet smell of honeysuckle draws me over to pluck a flower and taste that sweet nectar and I’m reminded of all the reasons why I wrote my current novel and why I’m still unable to let it go all these years later…
Maybe just one more revision?
* I’ve never actually spun the wheel because beer gives me heartburn. I can, however, highly recommend the chili cheese dog and the white trash cheese dip, both of which also give me heartburn. But, you know, delicious.
** Oh, wait.
*** It’s come to my attention that I might have been a bloodhound in a former life.