Abrupt Edge Diary - 18

This is the seventeenth in a series about the construction of the novel-in-progress, Abrupt Edge

17.  Oh frabjous day, calloo calay

I have found my way out of the forest and I can see the trees once more.  It might as well have been writer’s block (see my previous post) because for two weeks I’ve been recycling through Part V of my novel-in-progress, not making much progress at all.

I boxed in college.  Yes, besides feather merchants and bongs, Berkeley had featherweights and boxers of other weights and I was one.  I wasn’t bad as a boxer, I was not so good as a competitor.  Put three judges around the ring and a referee in the center, I got stage fright, which, come to think of it, is an analog to writer’s block.  When those guys weren’t around I could hold my own with light-heavies and middleweights (I was a junior welterweight).  And lest you think that sparring is a patty cake exercise, the only time I was ever knocked out was sparring with my lightweight teammate, one weight division lower.  Leo Gaspardone’s left hook was dynamite at lightening speed and could have taken out a heavyweight if it landed on the button.

In boxing you learn lots of things:  footwork, punching technique, how to use the ring, reading your opponent, defense, combining punches and so on.  You must learn to integrate all those actions—and then forget all of them, and like the Zen archer, just let it happen.

Same thing in writing novels.  You have to learn how to create a story, how to create a character, pacing, dialog, the right amount of  pertinent detail, how to imbue your words with a level of emotion that transcends the emotional freight of individual words, and, most importantly, how to “kill your little darlings.” You have to know what’s enough.  Like boxing, you must integrate these skills—then you have to let go and let the words come out.

For reasons I don’t totally understand and have no great desire to analyze to death, I’ve been concentrating, for the past two weeks, on footwork and forgetting proper punching technique and use of the ring.  Which has made my punches lack power while Abrupt Edge has been bobbing and weaving and otherwise dominating me.

Part of it was trying too hard, which was draining mental energy, which reduced concentration, which in turn made me have to go back again and again to read and absorb what I’ve written in the past month or so.

I finally took a few days off and regenerated my juices and then tore through reading the last several chapters and went on to produce the thirty-fourth chapter of the novel, which is not bad if I may say so.

Next post I’ll do a 500 word synopsis of the story to this point and ask anyone who actually is reading this to speculate with me about which way to end the tale.

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