turning new leaves

Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood. ... Make big plans, aim high in hope and work. -- David H. Burnham

Well, I'm guilty of a lot of things, but not of making little plans. My plans are always enormous, bulky things, aiming far higher than I can reach. And yes, they do stir the blood: right into a panic, they stir it.

I've rounded another bend in this long journey of revising my novel. Last week, I finished my rewriting of Part Two, turning out nearly 230 pages in three and a half weeks. Whew!

Then I took a dearly needed break, which taught me something new (as good breaks will): I need to be done with reading fiction for a while.

I've said it before, and it's still true: when I'm knee-deep in my story--chatting with my characters, puzzling out the next bit of plot--another author's story will just clutter my mind. I swipe their tone without meaning to, or I fall into their patterns of writing. (It happens with movies, too: after a Cary Grant movie festival, I had some very snappy dialogue sessions. Hilarious to hear my heroine go wise-cracking on me, but I had to cut it all in the end. Much as I love Mr. Grant.)

So there's the clutter to worry about, but what I noticed this weekend was a huge failing of appetite. I didn't want to read fiction.

This might not sound like a big deal, but for me, it's the equivalent of typing I am no longer interested in food, or I think oxygen is wholly optional, or I could do without feet. Or heaven forbid, if I suddenly disliked coffee. (You'll know if this happens, because pigs will be soaring through a sunless and frozen sky. It will all happen at the same time, I promise.)

Me? Not wanting to read fiction? Really? I've always read fiction, by the bucketful. Three novels at a time, if I can. When I was younger, I'd actually tuck a book under my chin and then try to make up my bed and read at the same time.

Nonfiction? Not nearly as compelling.

That's an understatement: I've always considered nonfiction to be on the same plane as unsweetened oatmeal and beige hallways. That was the section of the library that Other People browsed through, not me.

But what's heaped up beside my bed now? Henri Nouwen's Genesee Diary, Graham Greene's collected letters, The Large Catechism by Martin Luther, Educating Alice by Alice Steinbach (rush out and read this one immediately, as it's fantastic), and the Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Middle Ages. Not my usual novel diet.

And while munching this strange fare, I'm planning the next section of my book, the bulky and terrifying Part Three. Where all the plot strands come together in an enormous knot, all the rising action reaches its peak, everything gets set for the climax in Part Four.

I am deeply frightened about tackling this next rewrite, but by now, I've realized that's part of the process. At the beginning of each task, I'm a bit wild-eyed, and I'm learning to take it in stride. I'm rereading the old version of this section, taking my notes, and then making my big plans, blood-stirring plans. Aiming high yet again.


  1. WOW!!!
    By the way posting a comment can be difficult.
    Is there a way to make it less complicated?

  2. A few other people have said they're having trouble... I'm browsing Blogger's help pages, but I'm not coming up with anything--sorry! I'll keep looking.

  3. Shelley WestenbroekApril 26, 2009 at 4:45 PM

    I love this sentence :" I've always considered nonfiction to be on the same plane as unsweetened oatmeal and beige hallways. "

    Is it okay if I put it in my "favorite quotes" section of FB?
    (I totally understand if it isn't okay)

    Keep aiming high!!


  4. Well, I'd be flattered to be a favorite quote! :)