Thursday, October 17, 2013

Work-In-Progress: September

Considering we're closing in on the end of October, I should probably write my work-in-progress report for September, eh? Don't worry, this will be a short one. 

On September 1st, I handed my very rough first draft to my thesis director, who agreed to read the whole 256 pages and give me feedback. This was very nice of her, since drafts are not actually due to directors until December 15th, which means she would have to read the whole book again in a few months. (I'm a bit ahead of schedule with the whole thesis writing thing, but that's because I don't want to graduate with a draft. I want to graduate with a book. The more drafts I can write before May, the more likely I am to sell a book and not have to get a real job. This is the dream, anyway.) 

So. I handed in the draft and then, for the next three weeks, I did not think about my book. Instead, I worked on other things - mostly that chicken essay I keep talking about, but also a few other small projects. I also read a bunch of books for my Hybrid Forms class, started workshopping in my undergrad classes (my favorite part of teaching, by far!), and created a Google document titled "Post-MFA Job Hunt," which so far remains empty, for obvious reasons. 

Then, the day of reckoning arrived. My thesis directory emailed me, said she finished my book, and asked when I would have time to meet. We set up a date for later that week and honestly, it was all I could think about. While I'd written and workshopped large sections of this book last year, in a Book Length Writing Workshop, everything from plot to point of view had changed drastically and only about 10% of those pages were in the current draft. Which means no one - and I mean no one - had seen the new draft. Was it terrible? Would I have to start over from scratch? Was I crazy to think this pile of papers could, one day, be a novel? Were the characters unlikeable? Was the plot plausible? Was it - horror of horrors, and my deepest fear - boring? I briefly considered dropping out of the MFA program and burning my laptop, but I decided that first, I would hear what my thesis director had to say. 

Good thing I waited, because the meeting went well. Yes, there are problems in the book. (I basically need to replot and rewrite the last third.) Yes, some of the characters are flat. Yes, I overwrote certain scenes and even now, I cringe when I reread them. But does it have potential? Does it have value? Can it be a book? Yes, according to my very kind, very patient, very gracious thesis director. To say I was relieved is putting it lightly. 

Since our meeting, I've been slowly revising chapter by chapter. I'm still wallowing through the first half of the book, which isn't too bad, since most of the big problems are in the second half. I took this week off from the book, even though I didn't want to, because this weekend I have to take the dreaded MFA Exam. This is a test given to everyone the semester before they graduate, in which they must write two essays. I have a vague idea about what the questions will be, but I won't find out for sure until Friday at 3PM, when I can pick up the test. It's due Monday at 10AM, which is a special kind of cruelty, as it will basically kill my weekend and keep me from doing any other work, of which there is plenty. Once that exam is done, however, it's go-go-go until December 15th. Nothing like a firm deadline upon which your graduation rests to get a book finished, as I always say. 

Full steam ahead!