Progress update

Greetings from Southern Ontario! I’m currently on vacation, staying at my parents’ cottage near Collingwood. My kids have March Break this week, so we’re here for a week of skiing at Blue Mountain.

Although I’m not writing this week, I’ve started 2018 off right by getting back to work on my novel. I’ve nearly finished a 6-week online UBC course, called “How to write a novel: Edit and Revise.” This has included video lectures, assignments and practical suggestions for how to analyze and prioritize all the changes I need to make in my book for this next draft.

Accordingly, I’ve spent the last few weeks unraveling all the narrative strands from my last draft and examining each character and story arc; some beloved characters and scenes had to be ripped out in order to strengthen the overall book, but most of the main plot points remain intact. I’ve been working on character development and backstory, transferring my scene ideas onto cue cards and laying out various plot lines to make sure they intertwine in a balanced way. I’ve probably got another couple of hours of this type of planning work before I feel confident that my novel’s framework is solid. Then I can transfer this new outline into Scrivener, ready to expand into written-out scenes.

Since I’m a highly impatient person, I keep wanting to skip all this planning and dive straight into drafting new pages! One thing that’s held me back, though, is the technical debate on what kind of tense to use for each of my two main characters, Helen and Anna. In my last draft, Helen’s story was told with a first-person past tense voice (with a little second-person flair that’s definitely gone for this next version); Anna’s story was written in third-person present tense. My question now is: do I change these voices? My beta readers told me that using first-person for Helen “anchored” my book with her, but I’m also aware that Helen was a much more developed character in that last draft. Now that I’ve done lots of work to understand and develop Anna, should I also write her scenes using first-person? Or should I change Helen’s scenes to third-person? Should I keep Anna’s parts in present tense, to emphasize the impulsivity of her character? Or should I streamline the voices for both main characters?

Decisions, decisions. I wish there was a clear path forward! I think I’ll just try out different options as I draft my new scenes, and see what feels most natural.

In other news, my story “Foreign Bodies,” which won the Malahat Review’s Open Season award in 2017, has been nominated for the 2018 Journey Prize. This is a prestigious $10 000 prize for the “Best Short Story” published in a Canadian literary magazine by an emerging writer. Obviously, I am utterly thrilled with this nomination! I should hear by May if my story has made the long list for the prize.

I’m also waiting on news for the Quebec Arts grant I applied for in December, and I’ve submitted various short stories to literary magazines and contests. It’s strange to think about all these decisions being made on my work by different juries and editors while I’m at home on my own, inching my way through progress on my novel.

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