Yesterday our writers’ group had four absentees. None of the five of us present had anything to read. I have been writing, but I don’t have anything typed yet, and I stumble over my own handwriting when I am reading aloud. Bill and I have been trying to get rid of books as we have not only run out of bookshelf space, we have run out of space to put more bookshelves. I had the great idea of putting some out in the living room, and we got rid of six that way. Today our friend Ted comes to lunch, and I will ask him if he wants to take some away. I have culled several Pierre Loti novels, obviously bought at secondhand bookstores, and I am wondering why I bought them in the first place and if I have ever tried any of them.
One in our group has been reading Vincent Lam’s Giller Prize story collection, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures. She says her daughter, studying to be a nurse, loved it because it is about a doctor. We got talking about mystery novels, and I mentioned my favorites, the Cadfael novels by Ellis Peters. I had a hiatus of four days in my writing schedule: company and then a cold. When I got back this morning, I realized I was at a good stopping place. In the past I have always had a stopping place about a third of the way through. At first I would agonize over the inability to get going. Now I know that I just have to wait, if not patiently, at least not in despair. My brain’s preferred length seems to be 40,000 words, too long for a story, too short for a novel. But today I just finished part one, drew a line, wrote “Part Two” and continued. As with all my novels, there is no narrative thrust, no plot, a dreadful lack. I know that one in my writing group will give me the same criticism of this new novel, “Where’s the thread?” This fault is a result of hubris. When I started to write novels, back in 1968, I had the idea to use structures other than a plot. And then I thought I would try to invent a new plot, not a mystery plot, and not the Jane Austen/Harlequin romance plot, and by the time I understood my false pride and wrote a novel with the Jane Austen plot, I was too far gone in my writing method, and the novel is the weakest of my novels. In the last novel, I did try a mystery plot, but I am sure no one would think of it as a page-turner.