Week 23

It’s a teardown, again.

I’ve been chronicling my project with my wife on this blog. I’m going to write a sonnet series about the creation of California. I’m using the dual stories of William Mulholland and John Muir to tell the story of water in California, what really made it what it is. Ann’s a visual artist, so she’s going to do the graphic art work for it.

Here’s the thing about a series like this. It’s really difficult to write. That’s no surprise, but I think I have what’s going to be the structure of it finally. So far, I’ve started the epic. Twice. The first time I was about a quarter of the way through it. I had envisioned it as the story of Harrison as he dreams of Mulholland and Muir.

It was a good idea.

It didn’t work. That’s a lot of sonnets to throw away, but I’ll save them in a file, I suppose, for possible later use.

The problem was that the story just wasn’t active enough. That happens. If the narrative doesn’t have both major conflict and interlocking scene goals then it’s not going to work as a narrative.

The second version was pretty awful. The narrative was good, but it didn’t match the poetry of the non-narrative parts. I made the difficult decision this Saturday to tear down that one too.

So where does that leave me? Well, who said that it needs to be narrative? Not me. And who said that it needs to be sonnets? What I need is a discussion of the history of California, a way to locate what California is.

I think it needs to follow the tradition of the poetry collection that is loosely narrative but not dependent on that narrative.

How many times have I built up and torn down in the past? Every novel, every story goes through this process. I’m writing at first to figure out what it is that I know, and what I want to say.

I think I have it now. We’ll see.