Sunday, September 23, 2007

This blog defined

The inspiration for this blog is Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters by John Steinbeck. It's a very unusual book that's definitely in the category of "for fans only."

Its' really his raw journal, never meant for publication, and has all the boring parts that anyone's journal would--much like this blog. If you're deeply interested in the process of how writers work, then it's an interesting book.

It's a kind of journal/letter series that he kept during the 10 months he was writing East of Eden and it's addressed to his editor Pascal Covici. On some days he's writing about how his bunions ache and where he's going to get his haircut in the afternoon, and on other days he's writing about technical problems of character and theme and pacing. In between he chats about family problems, which kinds of pencils and paper he needs to have, the height of his chair, the noise in the other room, going to Elia Kazan's apartment the night before to watch an early print of A Streetcar Named Desire with that new Brando fellow in it, etc.

It was a great companion to have while I was drafting, because I could see that--skill and talent aside--my process wasn't very different and I was producing at about the same rate he was. (My book is about half the length of East of Eden, so it was only about half the time to draft it.) He had the same concerns about discipline and working every day. Similar goals. Every week or so when I would get doubtful, I would read a couple week's worth of his journal.

Inspired by the model, I kept a similar journal while I was drafting, and late in the drafting stage I decided to start doing it on this blog. I figure in a similar way it could be about everything from the sharpness of the pencil lead to technical problems.

One difference though, is that this journal is carrying on into the rewriting phase.

And of course another difference is that you're reading the journal of a novice instead of someone with a dozen successful novels already behind him. You might want to consider spend more time with his books instead of online with me. ;)

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