Valley of Ashes, a Scene to Behold – Day 201

The demolition of Shea Stadium, making the site look very much like the Valley of Ashes once again. Photo from the Bridge and Tunnel Club -- click on the image to see their website.

As I mentioned yesterday, things are not going well on the writing front. This whole week actually, in both the novel and the day job, I have been a little sluggish creatively. Perhaps it is just a blip — I hope things will get back on track shortly (I haven’t gone this many days in a dry spell in a long time though…!)

In any case, today I spent the morning exploring different ideas and approaches I can take in the novel to get things moving again. I listened to an interview between Joanna Penn and Larry Brooks about his new book I mentioned before, Story Engineering. In one spot, they talk about each scene being a microcosm of the book. Each scene needs to have a goal, something that moves the plot around. Although I am very conscious of my scenes, I’m not sure I am putting enough effort to make each scene a story unto itself…

Then I found this interesting post on the Valley of the Ashes in The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald describes it in detail in one scene, and Levi Asher found an aerial photo of the area taken in 1924 — about the time Fitzgerald would have been finishing Gatsby — that shows landmarks described in the book. I didn’t know it really existed! Not in so much detail, at least. Another fun fact: Shea Stadium was built on the site years later. Kind of cool to see the reality behind the story. Inspiring too.

After all this well refilling, for the rest of the morning I wrote about my book. What I was trying to achieve. What the themes are, who the characters are. What the story is. Most importantly, how I want to tell the story. This is where I’m having the most trouble, I think. I’ve mentioned before, I might be overthinking the whole thing. I’m starting to strangle myself creatively, second-guessing every word I’m writing down. On the other hand though, I know that I’m missing the mark in many places — or at the very least, not making the writing as good as it can be. This isn’t self-doubt — I know what that feels like. This is an honest appraisal of the writing. I need to jack it up a bit, make it more interesting for the reader, and find ways to make it connect on more levels.

Here’s what I wrote near the end of my babblings:

Next step: identify what each scene needs to accomplish, then write that scene with intent to that goal. Inject conflict, questions, and misdirections clothed in sarcasm and wit in every sentence.

In every sentence. That’s a tall order, but I’m going to try writing passages that, if not quite as decadent and depraved as Hunter S. Thompson’s (really, I don’t want to go that far), then at least half-way there.

(Ooh, another fun fact I learned today: part of how Thompson learned how to write was to type out the books he loved… including The Great Gatsby. The idea I guess was to get a sense of the pacing and language as he typed. Interesting…)

Hope to have some time to delve into this writing again tomorrow. Will get back to you soon, in any case.

~Graham

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