Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Novel "Research" and Other Legitimate Distractions

January 8, 2014

I've decided on a title for my novel.  It came to me one night when I couldn't sleep: The Clean Plate Award.  I'd been using All-You-Can-Eat as the working title, but that's already the title of a short story I published, so it felt too recycled and tired.  I hope my new title gets at some of what's going to be at play in the book: a challenge, an admonishment, an obsession, and of course a lot of eating.  Being told you have to clean your plate is often punitive and so I hope that idea will also float around somewhere in the subtext of the book.

One thing I love is how easy it is (and yes, distracting) to do research online.  I spent a good part of yesterday morning trying to figure out if chardonnay should be capitalized or not.  There were so many different opinions and sources, but I eventually went with not capitalizing it.  Then, I started writing about my character, Olive, having done a couple Tough Mudder events, and realized I knew very little about them.  So I posted a question on Facebook and within a few minutes, a friend got back to me and filled me in with the best, most particularized details I could ever hope for.  It was wonderful! Then, I needed names of paint colors for the Victorian house Olive's parents had painted, so it was off to the Benjamin Moore website, where I settled on Summer Glow, Dill Weed, Pottery Red and Bavarian Cream.  You get where I'm going with this.

These are the fun parts of writing a novel. These are the stupid, little but important things that make writing a book take far longer than it should. The harder, less fun parts are just sitting there writing it. I've completed Chapter One, but when I say "completed," I really just mean I've written it. I can't stop fussing with it.  Most of my fussing is additive.  I keep writing notes to myself in the margins. The one that keeps coming up most frequently is: atmospherics.  When I open up most of the novels that I love, there are always lots of atmospherics, which is not just setting but mood, time, light, feel of a place, weather, familiarity and essence.  That's what I keep filling in.  Because my fictional town, Mabel, New York, is an amalgam of about four places I know, I have to keep it very detailed, concrete and specific to make it its very own.

Chapter One is 23 pages.  When I "finished" it, I went to my favorite thrift store as my reward. I spent a luxurious hour in there at least, and left with a sugar bowl and a Japanese sewing basket.

Chapter Two...