self-reflection

(image courtesy Chiara Fursini)


I didn’t know what my novel What Would Water Do was about until I finished it.  Because Averil asked, and because of recent conversations with Raina and Josey, I will tell you specifically what I learned.  

    • My writing (at least for this novel) is very cinematic. I emphasize the way things look so much that for the reader, it sometimes feels like watching a movie. It probably could have been a screenplay instead of a novel.  I realized this somewhere along the line and fought against it, but the places where I try to be more literary are the things that don’t fit.  Now I know not to fight it. The story (about celebrities, wannabes, hipsters, Hollywood) lends itself to a superficial treatment–not superficial in the shallow sense but one that shows the tension on the surface, one that entertains– I can fight my highbrow urges and do this, I can trust that the underlying intelligence doesn’t need to be forced.  
    • The most fun parts are the ones where I use magical realism. Like chapter 10, my favorite, in which all Drew’s favorite writers come to life and give her relationship advice.  Okay, okay, it’s a bit gimmicky, but it’s fun.  I can do this.
    • When people ask me what my book is about, I blush. I don’t know what to tell them.  Why do I do this?  Because it’s about celebrities, wannabes, hipsters, and Hollywood, and when I describe it, it sounds stupid.  But it’s so much more than that!  I just re-read it and I can say that without wavering.  It’s like watching a mud wrestling match between Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, with commentary by Murakami.  I’m trying to bridge the gap between academic types and those who like trashy magazines.  I just need to fully embrace it.  I think I can do this!
    • My characters’ motivation is much more clear now. Drew, the brainy introverted writer, wants to be the main character, the one whose interpretation of reality we subscribe to.  She believes that writers are the best at “reading” the world.  But Mae, the delicious actress, has a mind of her own. She’s not just a mouthpiece dutifully reading the lines she is given.  And Lang, the director, is a maestro at conducting reality from behind the scenes. I want to accentuate the tension between the women, then take it further. I think it’s a rather macho idea that only one can prevail– perhaps I have glossed over the idea that all these women come together to make a wonderful movie, that in the end, it was their partnerships and not their power struggles that did it.  
    • My friend Ré at Sparks In Shadow helped me with emotions.  Sometimes I get stuck in my head and feel more comfortable in the realm of ideas rather than feelings. Many times, Ré wrote comments that helped me understand how I  needed to go there. Her suggestions made my writing much, much better.  Thank you, Ré!
    • All this adds up to a personal revelation, as well.  All my life, I have struggled to appear smart.  Being female, 5’1”, and curvy, with the face and voice of a child, I have fought to assert myself as something more.  No amount of schooling and fancy degrees and sexy honors and titles really helped. But I’m in my 40’s now and I think I can let that all go. This novel is, in a way, my way of healing that dichotomy in myself, of unifying my own separate parts. 

Do you see the theme?  I do. Loud and clear, in technicolor, with a flashing strobe. And it’s very exciting!

 

 

 

 

About girl in the hat

aka Anna Fonté, writer of novels, short stories, personal essays, and bits about the neighborhood crows. The things I write want you to look at them.

46 comments

  1. ThreeKingsBooks

    I absolutely love how you’ve thought this through, analyzing & understanding. I’ve had to face a similar situation with my own writing: I am a commercial writer, even though I have an M.A. in English Literature from Bryn Mawr and I both read and enjoy literary fiction. I am what I am. Yup, I still squirm a bit when I speak out loud about my writing, except the TRUTH is that I write very, very well. I entertain, but my characters are always interesting, and my language crisp.

    Let’s all just vow to be who we are, as writers. Own it.

    • Aha! Maybe that’s why I can’t get an agent. I keep calling it “literary”! When did entertainment get a bad name? I say we storm the ramparts and make entertainment smart again!

  2. As it should be. The path of discovery one takes when writing a novel is, to me, the best part of the process. Yes, it means going back and revising like crazy to make sure it all makes sense, but it’s worth it.

  3. I love this post! I could feel your excitement. Experienced the feeling of liberty that comes from revelation. Onward…

  4. You CAN do it! I resonate with the struggling to appear smart. (and height) I’ve heard this a lot, “You’re so cute.” Ughhh! It’s a wonderful feeling to discover why the characters came to you and to the page. Looking forward to reading the entire book!

  5. It’s exciting to hear about. Thanks for your kind mention, and for writing this post. It helps me think a little differently about my own writing, the balancing and the building almost brick by brick, the difference, sometimes gulf, between what we want to say and what we do, and wondering if it matters. I’ve been thinking about that a lot in the past few days. This post has lifted my thoughts on the subject. I’m hoping for some healing, too.

    • Not kind, tkrue. Your comments always help me immensely. Re, you were one of the first people to read and comment on my blog and when you did, I felt like the universe was opening up just a little bit, making room for me. Thank you for that!!!
      You’re right– the space between what I say and what I think I say is immeasurable, and this personal insight has been a surprising and happy side effect.

  6. Congratulations on making what sounds like a surprising and exciting journey of discovery! I would love to read your completed novel, it sounds huge fun!

  7. You write beautifully whatever you write Anna !

  8. Ahh, I love all this. I think you understand exactly what’s ahead in revisions, and what you need to do to reinforce the themes that have emerged. It’s exciting to watch this book come together. I hope you’ll give us updates as you go along, even if you’ve decided not to post chapters.

  9. tad

    Miss Hat, you have my appetite, more please

  10. The one thing that stands out in this post for me is your comment about realizing the parts where you fought against what you thought you should do vs. what you wanted to do, are the parts that don’t fit. That is such a profound lesson. If the flow isn’t happening, if we’re struggling in any way, there’s a reason. And afterwards, even if we don’t know the reason, we can still pick out the passages that don’t belong. Like little alien words that sneak in from another story world.Glad you were able to finish the story the way you wanted rather than the way you felt you should. That’s a big deal.

    • Thank you Lisa– now hopefully I have chosen the right parts to cut! It’s like my brain is fighting with my heart– this once, I”m going with the heart to see what will happen.

  11. Aia

    Immense félicitations, chère Anna! You inspire us all with your expression and honesty. Merci. Bisous from Provence.

  12. It’s all a process, isn’t it, trying to reconcile all the seemingly separate parts. Right after I commented @Betsy’s on my feelings of entitlement, I remembered how unworthy I often feel. I suppose that’s where circumstance comes into play, different situations producing different parts of the individual.

  13. you know, this is the antithesis of my post about speed and writing–or is it? I know that the idea of writing a novel seems daunting to me not so much because of what it demands of the writer, but rather, what it demands of the person writing. That self-realization you went through is amazing and integral to the writing experience, and you’ve inspired me (maybe guilted me) as well, to get back to it. In the process of trying to brand myself, to get out there and explore different genres, the trade-off is I have learned to get stuff done, but perhaps at the price of not doing the hard and brave work you have done here.

    All of this to say what’s already been said above: Bravo, girl in the hat. Bravo!!

    • No no, not antithetical. All in the same vein, I think.
      And I must admit, the novels are so much harder and deeper than the other things I do, but that may be different for others. I think if you wanted to, you could get something big out of writing a paragraph or a little comment on a blog.
      Well put about writer vs. person writing– that made me think.

  14. Pingback: Sunday Ramblings: The Girl in the Hat | writersclubkl

  15. Ok – I haven’t read any of the What Would Water Do because I wanted to read it all at once – is it time? I’ll start now – silly you you should be charging cold hard cash for this! I can’t wait to get my teeth sunk into it’s shallow, tense, well describedness!

    • Why am I blushing and wanting to tell you to wait, that it sucks now and you shouldn’t waste your time, you should wait until I revise again again again? Weird, considering I’ve been sharing it for over a year now, without batting an eye. But I posted the last chapter and suddenly, I can see it in a new light. And people don’t pay for something unless it’s got an official stamp on it somewhere. So grab it while you can–it’s rough and imperfect but still hopefully interesting and certainly FREE!

  16. Just stopped to say congradulations – I read the last of your novel and it’s beathtaking – if you can end a story you can write a story – hope it becomes a bestseller – it deserves to be – :D

  17. Now maybe I can start reading your other stuff.

  18. Once your book is ready I would try finding a guild or group of some kind.
    Meeting people in person can often hook you up with some great leads -
    When these people find a receptive market they will often share – leading
    you to the companies most likely to want what your selling – (it was a friend
    of one of these people that suggested I try Mind Wings.)

    have a bad experience with one group? Try another, the second group I
    joined hooked me up with a woman who could print sellable copies of my
    picture book – fully edited and professionally designed – should I decide
    to self publish –

    You’d be surprised how many of these groups are not workshops so much
    as networking sights. And the diversity of people who attend them is shocking -
    There is nothing like watching fundamentalist Christians blush when a twenty -
    something with face pierceings is allowed to recite her erotica. ;)

    • I am desperately looking for a group right now. My last group disintegrated about two months ago and I can’t find another one. You’re right, a group can help so much. (I’d love to see that blush– I don’t meet many fundamentalists around here, but the place is crawling with pierced writers of erotica.)

  19. There is also the turkey man – he hunts wild turkeys and wears a necklace of beaks -
    he reffers to his prey as “Thunder Chickens” and writes and talks exclusively of turkeys.
    He often demonstrates his turkey calls when asked to share his work.

  20. Wish you more than luck for the recent reading request, Anna – you write with such verve!

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