Big Reveals (And Lack Thereof)

I would just like it to be noted that, here I sit, writing away, all this month like a crazy person, while the crazy political season swirls all around me, and here I sit on election day, writing away like a crazy person, while the crazy electoral ground literally shifts under my feet.

Is this discipline or what?

Insert maniacal laughter here.

What a time! And that's all I'm going to say -- today -- about this election season and our collective stories -- what a time.

In the meantime, I have GOT to make progress, and yesterday was a wash, a complete and utter wash -- I fell into bed feeling like a failure, even though I know I'm not.

Yesterday was the day for a "big reveal." This is my name for a scene where a vital piece of information is revealed to the reader (and to Franny, in this case). A big reveal is like opening a window into the story. Sometimes the big reveal turns the entire story -- and there are smaller reveals along the way, of course.

Big reveals are hard to manage well, but they are manageable, if you've got one to manage... if that makes sense. For me, since so much of the novel has shifted under my fingers, this particular big reveal has shifted as well.

The reveal I had planned to write about here turns out to be too much of a hammer-on-the-head. I need something more subtle. And I have possibilities... but I could not decide yesterday. I went one way, then the next. I backed up and tried again, but the best I could do, sitting all afternoon at Panera Bread while workers installed replacement windows at my house, the best I could do was call it a day and go home around 6pm.

Then I sat with the novel last night, reading and making notes, and rereading... still no reveal that felt just-right. I was staring at a big gaping hole -- sort of like this one, to the right, which is where my multi-paned, floor-to-ceiling living room (my office) window used to go. I am replacing my forty-year-old stuck-shut, wooden-warped, impossible to clean or open windows with insulated, tilt-in, easy-up-and-down, gloriously wide-paned vinyl windows. New windows: new reveals. I need a new reveal for my novel.

Remind me that I DID work yesterday. Remind me that, when the big reveal is... er... revealed to me, that it will come as a result of yesterday's slog. Please do not remind me that I have four days left (count 'em) to finish this draft. Thankyouverymuch.

When the work isn't going well (my definition of "well" at this point being pages are coming together and I'm making forward progress in the narrative), I turn to making notes in my notebook. Here are some of the notes I made over the past couple of days. I sent them to my editor, in preparation for Wednesday's (tomorrow! ulp!) conversation:

My concerns/questions for this novel at this point:

-- too melodramatic?
-- too kitchen sinky -- too ambitious?
-- don't use Mississippi references if they aren't going to pay off later (I have a plan, just not there yet and this may be part of the big reveal)
-- too much cultural referencing?
-- have dropped jack (dog) -- will bring him back (other threads need attn, too)
-- lack of weather and description and various other details (will fix -- I'm working for
plot and structure now)

what I like:

-- Franny's voice and authenticity as a character/person
-- 1st person, present tense, which I used in Freedom Summer as well, but never in a novel before -- I started in past tense, but it didn't work well that way... now it feels right.
-- the relationships that are forming between characters
-- the small mysteries (and the larger ones)
-- the humor
-- the vignette style for each chapter (which was accidental but feels just right)
-- the organic feel of what's happening/how things fit
-- much of what I'm referencing in the narrative will be fleshed out and supported by the extra materials, tk.

Timing: I think I have it figured out now. First draft, I had a year's time-frame, Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving. Second draft, I started in September 1962, the first week of school. Now, this third time through, I have started on Oct. 19, as we head into Kennedy's speech on Oct. 22 about a Soviet missile build-up in Cuba.

Right now I plan to end on Oct. 27, a Saturday night (which was the scariest and last night of the Cuban Missile Crisis), with the Halloween party. There will be a coda on Halloween night, the next Wed., as the CMC is resolved and the last threads come together.

Daunting doesn't begin to cover it.

Today's election is going to be a Big Reveal. Yesterday, while stuck and distracting myself from the task at hand, I wrote daughter Hannah, who has been in Ohio working like a crazy person for the Obama campaign, "I shudder to think about the therapy you will need if Obama doesn't take Ohio."

She wrote me back this morning: "No therapy will be needed!"

Is this a big reveal? Does she know something I don't know? Or is she just so enthusiastic she's doggedly determined to swing that state?

I said I wasn't going to talk about the election anymore today. Oops. It's just that big reveals can go more than one way -- yes? It will be interesting to watch the returns tonight and lean into the big reveal... maybe I will come up with the way to turn my novel as I do.

I'm off to vote this morning, then back to work.

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