I am embarked on an exercise in self-discipline, determined to plug away until I finish a manuscript I began more than a decade ago. There is a very good chance that this piece I’m working on is an exercise in futility but I refuse to relegate it to the filing cabinet because I believe it is a story that needs to be told. It’s just that some days I’m not so that I am the one to tell it.
The factual basis for the story, which I’m calling White Shadow, grew out of a time I spent in Mozambique, a country that was a Portuguese colony until 1975, many years after most of colonial Africa had become free and independent. It began as non-fiction and has now morphed into historical fiction and therein lies the problem.
I’m not a natural fiction writer and I struggle with the dialogue and detail necessary to bring characters to life. I’d like to believe that it is not impossible for me to do this. What I do know is that it is not easy.
I’ve learned a whole lot in this process. I’m accustomed to whipping off eight or nine hundred word journalistic stories fairly quickly. Writing a book-length piece is a whole different bag. Because there is no deadline, I tend to write and re-write and then get tangled up in the various different versions of what I’ve written. And then there’s the matter of remembering what I wrote in say, chapter three, when I need to refer to it in chapter nine.
How in the world did people ever write books before the existence of computers? They may be frustrating at times, but I can’t imagine the torture of writing by hand or typewriter when corrections become such a tedious problem.
As the first week of August begins, I’ve decided to set aside two full days to work on this long-delayed project. I’ve considered leaving home and finding a hideaway—a friend’s mountain cabin or even the public library but I’ve rejected that idea because everything that I need is close at hand in my home.
Now. Will it be possible to ignore the phone and doorbell, the weeds in the garden, the beans that need picking, the laundry that needs washing? Hmmm. We’ll see. I also wonder how long I can manage to keep my seat glued to the chair, my eyes staring at the screen.
It could be a huge bust, but I’m going to give it a try.