Origins: my novel

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Hard truth: I started writing my novel in January, 2005.

2005! How did almost a decade pass without my completing it?

It began as a project with good (but high) expectations. I had enrolled in a college’s creative writing correspondence program – six months of writing with a mentor – in the hopes of producing a strong piece of work by the end. At the time, I had just finished an English degree, was working two jobs and planning my wedding.

My mentor was encouraging and supportive, but, in five months, I only produced an outline, started researching, and wrote maybe 20 pages of my novel.

I was overwhelmed by what I undertaken – a historical fiction set in 15th century Italy. I wanted to be accurate in my descriptions and authentic in my characterizations. I drowned a little in the research, hampered by, among other things, the need to track down translations of Latin and Italian texts and the discovery that the Borgias (the papal family that feature strongly) were a murky mix of legend and truth.

I was happy with the work I produced, though disappointed with the volume. I didn’t work right to the end of the program as my wedding took place a month before and I was also accepted to a Master of Arts program for English in a different city, so I wasn’t focused on my writing aspirations.

And that was pretty much the last time I spent quality time working on my novel. Sure, I’ve had spurts of writing, but they have been irregular and often combined with sweeping editorial changes as I reread my own pages and found them lacking. I always had an excuse for not spending time working on my book: finishing my degree, starting a career, having two kids, cleaning the fridge. Really, any excuse would do because I was terrified of being a writer (see my post would-be writer from Wednesday for a discussion on the fears of a writing life).

But then I turned 35 and started questioning how I wanted to spend the next 30 years of my life. And the one constant that remained was that I wanted to be a writer. Consequently, I am dusting off what I still consider to be a good idea for a novel and making time for it (and, ultimately, myself).

So, here is the idea: What happened to Rosaline?

Who is Rosaline? Rosaline is the young lady who didn’t fall for Romeo’s charms before he met Juliet. She is the one that got away. Not many people remember that Romeo first was tortured by love for Rosaline, but I always wondered about this girl who spurred Romeo’s advances in favour of  “Dian’s wit” – a reference to the virgin goddess Diana, meaning Rosaline had taken a vow of chastity. What did a life in the church mean for a woman at that time and why, next to religious belief, would someone choose that life? The idea spun out from there after I began my research, but, really, if you’re going to borrow from another writer, Shakespeare is a pretty good place to start.

Now that I’ve decided to go back to work on this novel, I need to make a plan and set some obtainable, but challenging, goals. I’m going to start by rereading what I’ve got so far (resisting the urge to edit too much) to remind myself of how much I have done and, hopefully, get more excited about the idea again. I am going to decide how much time to give to my novel each week. I do still have a day job, so I may not get to work on it every day. I think by making writing part of my schedule, just like going to work, making dinner and playing with my kids, I’ll get a lot farther than I realize. And, of course, I’ll share the process and the work here on re: read pages, so I hope you will check back often.

BJL

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