Monday, September 28, 2009

A mixed up day

It's been a weird, mixed, and mixed up writing day. A transitional one. Got thrown off my pace this morning, in a good way, by a call from my mother. She'd ordered my novel Burnt Norway off of and was calling to say how much she liked it. I hear what you're thinking . . . of course his mother is going to like it. But she's an extremely literate person and a hecka of a smart reviewer of fiction. Her praise was intelligent and true to the nature of the book. In short, her kind words really meant a lot. But it also made me high as a kite for a while, and it took me some time to get back in the writing groove. I did, and actually, finally, worked my way through my (for now) complete revision of the Paris section of the novel. He's done there! He's on his way to Arles! I accomplished this, however, by just flat dropping a very long scene in which Vincent visits the studio of Georges Seurat. That was a hard choice. Not only did this visit actually happen (shortly before he left Paris) and not only is it intriguing to the imagination if you know anything about these two important Neoimpressionists, but I really liked this scene. I'd worked long and hard on it, carrying out multiple revisions and doing an immense amount of fact checking. But, in the end, it wasn't necessary for the book. Not only is the book too long already, but I discovered as I went along that the main focus of the Paris section is Van Gogh's developing, changing relationship with two men: Emile Bernard and Paul Gauguin. I shouldn't and finally couldn't distract from that. So I cut the Seurat studio scene and instead saved a scene (conveniently shorter) in which Van Gogh and Bernard arrange Vincent's studio on the night before he leaves Paris for good. That scene, in part, showed how the "evil" influence of Gauguin was already upon Bernard, a theme I run with in the Arles section, so the scene makes a nice bridge.

The other mixed up part of my day came after I finished revising the scene I just mentioned. The way my novel is structured is that I go back and forth between scenes in St.- Remy, France (where V. was hospitalized) and scenes from the rest of his life. So, done with the Paris section, I was supposed to jump back to St.-Remy. Lo and behold, I got to my St.-Remy file and found that I was out of scenes! I'd used all of them already. Oh well, I decided, to paraphrase an old Dorito's commercial, I'll just have to write more. Two, as it turns out. One for now and one to insert after the Arles section. The former I kinda sorta finished by the time my writing day ended, the latter I haven't started yet. Both will be short. They simply have to be, given the length of the novel already, and because I think they can work well being short. Actually, having to compose these scenes works out nicely because there are elements of his stay in St.-Remy that I didn't bring in before but now can (albeit briefly) and in that way better nuance the tone of the whole St-Remy experience. That's it for today. Not too many questions to raise, just a report on one of my more scattered but still beneficial writing days.

(Above: The view from out the window of the recreated "Vincent's Room" at St. Paul's hospital in Saint-Rémy, France.)


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