Self found an old chapter of her novel-in-progress (which is right now 310 pages; it used to be 323 pages)
This chapter is titled “Education, 1746” and begins:
The Bishop schooled Matias carefully. He gave Matias instruction on the governance of the Islands, and the manner in which the archipelago had come under the tutelage of Spain.
And then the history of the Islands unfolds, from Magellan’s voyage to the succeeding century, and all is told in dialogue.
“I must rest,” the Bishop said. “We shall continue on this topic tomorrow.”
Matias returned to his room and lay, restless and wakeful, far into the night.
Self loves, loves, loves these early drafts. That is fine writing, even if it was done by herself (lol). There is almost no backstory. Matias, the young priest, is being schooled by the Bishop. And it is only the two of them, chapter after chapter. There is a garden, and an old house, and birds, and heat, and the Bishop sometimes takes middle-of-the-night walks in just his nightshirt, and Matias catches him, and there’s light from a thin moon. And then nothing.
The parts self added, she doesn’t really like that they spell out so much history. In fact, the only new parts self likes are the parts during the ship voyage from Cadiz to Manila. And the introduction of four soldiers who escort Matias to the island. But these soldiers serve absolutely no plot. They simply take Matias and leave him there, on the beach. Then an old woman emerges from the forest and dances for Matias, and leaves again. And Matias lives in a swamp with another old woman. And finally he meets a half-breed named Diego.
That’s it! There are no big, dramatic scenes. But maybe that’s the story self wanted to write. Maybe that’s the real story: colonization in a hypnotic state, with no drama.
Ugh, writing in long form is truly difficult. She has to get the words down, but those words mean nothing. It’s only after, when she has to carve them into some kind of meaning. She’s not talking about plot, she’s talking about meaning. Her kind of writing is truly writing without a safety net, for she never has a road map.
She has a friend, Caroline (a member of her writers group, and a fine, fine writer herself) who read her short story collection. Last week, Caroline and self met in a café and Caroline told her which stories in the collection could/should be expanded. Caroline is the mother of three young children (all still in grade school) and has just started a graduate program at St. Mary’s, yet she read almost 300 pages of self’s work. That kind of generosity is priceless. These stories are not new, but because of Caroline, self knows which ones she has to try and work on some more.
She hopes she can do all this work in Annaghmakerrig. If she can just. Get. There. Without. Falling. Apart.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.