Friday, March 07, 2014

Work-In-Progress: Done (For Now)

Y'all. I did it. I finished my thesis.

Literally a fraction of my book.

I meant to share the good news sooner, but the timeline of events was such that I didn't have time. If you recall, I decided to move my thesis due date up two weeks, so that I would hand it in before leaving for AWP. I wanted to enjoy Seattle and spring break without such a big project looming over my head, and while there were moments in the days leading up to February 25 that I cursed myself, questioned my sanity, and wondered whether I should just give up entirely, the decision was, in the end, the right one. I finished. It's done. And now I don't have to think about it again until March 28, when I will stand in front of my thesis committee and defend my work. 

I do this thing in my head sometimes, where I pretend that someone is interviewing me about my creative process for a well know publication (cough*parisreviw*cough). Since I have so much experience asking myself questions, I thought a brief interview here would be fun/weird/let's just to with it, okay? 

Chrissy: What were those last days before your deadline like? 

Chrissy: A rush, literally and figuratively. I usually write for two or three hours in the early morning, and then move on to other responsibilities - planning lessons for the classes I teach, cooking dinner and keeping the house clean, walking the dogs and feeding the chickens, etc. All that went out the window during those last few days (and here I should thank Nathan for picking up the slack!). I did not clean. I ate whatever could be defrosted in the toaster oven. I drank a lot of coffee and a lot of wine. The night before my thesis was due, I still had half a pivotal chapter to write, and I worked on it from 3pm until 10pm, taking one short break for my favorite yoga class. I don't think I've ever been so focused on a single project for so long. By the time I finally went to bed I was exhausted, but I couldn't sleep. I kept thinking, "I wrote a book!" And then, "What if it's terrible?" Needless to say, it was not a restful night.  

Chrissy: You've been working on this book for two years now. What has changed since that first draft? 

Chrissy: Everything but the title. Well, that's not entirely true. I always knew it would be about two sisters dealing with a conflict between themselves, as well as conflicts with their partners. The nature of those conflicts, the decisions they make, the consequences that befall them, even the point of view - all of that changed, and changed, and changed. The draft I handed in was about 250 pages, but I probably wrote at least 600 pages in all. At one point, there were literally three different bombs in the book. Like, actual explosions. Those are gone now, and the book is (I hope) better for it. 

Chrissy: How do you feel about the book right now? 

Chrissy: I'm glad I don't have to think about it for a while. I feel like it's a good thesis. I'm proud of how far it's come, and how much I've grown as a writer while working on it. It has potential. But it's not ready for publication, or even for sending out to agents. I hope that after my defense, once I've had some space from the book, I can return to it knowing exactly what needs to be done. Until then, I'm eager to work on other projects - mainly short stories and essays. 

Chrissy: You wrote a book! That's pretty awesome. What did you learn from the experience? 

Chrissy: I learned that writing is not very difficult, but revision is hard as hell. That holding a whole novel in your head at once is exhausting, and impossible to do (for me, anyway) without extensive outlines and pages of notes. That it's better to keep a work in progress to yourself, at least in the earliest and most vulnerable stages. That sitting in front of a computer for hours and hours isn't as lonely as you might think, especially when you have characters you really care about to keep your company. That novel-writing is a long distance race, requiring endurance, stamina, and cross-training by reading great books. That things will be messy and terrible and embarrassing for months and months, and that what you're working on probably won't look like a book for a long time, but that if you keep going, something with potential will begin to take shape. I'm not a religious person, but writing this thesis is probably the biggest act of faith I've ever undertaken. I'm proud of it, and I'm looking forward to the next revision.

Chrissy: Thanks for talking to us today, Chrissy. 

Chrissy: Thank you. 

PS - For monthly updates of the work-in-progress, see below.