What I find fascinating as well as frustrating about writing is that, like any other job in the world, it has its good days and bad days.
Today was definitely a good day.
Pearl Harbor is but a few hours away, and I’m actually looking forward to it. I didn’t write as much this evening as I thought I would (today’s output: 2044), but no matter. What I did write didn’t sound so bad as I pounded away on the keyboard. Now, granted, the way the whole writing process works is thus: you write what you think is God-given and full of fire and ice, and then you re-read it later and realize it’s all just s*** and p***.
On the other hand, you slog through despite a sinking feeling that what’s coming out of you is nothing short of execrable, and you only manage to make it to your required word count by the skin of your gritted teeth. And then you re-read it later and realize, Holy crap, that wasn’t so bad. Damn, I’m a genius.
And that is why writers commit suicide.
Seriously, though, I found that despite the over-long build-up to the first section’s climax (i.e., Pearl Harbor and the explosion of war in the Pacific), I found today that I actually enjoy the slow pace. Maybe it’s not the modern (or is it postmodern) trend in novel narratives, where you’d better have a murder or at least a bloodbath by Chapter 3 in order to hold the contemporary reader’s attention, but then I would miss the whole point of my own book, i.e, how the war dramatically and irrevocably changes my characters’ lives forever. And in order to highlight the profound ways in which they do change I would need to provide a contrast between their lives before December 8, 1941 (when Japan invades Malaya), and after.
Of course, I’ve no doubt that the first 3 chapters will end up getting heavily edited in subsequent drafts. Right now, though, I’m really enjoying getting to know my characters and their intimate thoughts about their private worlds. It really does provide a startling and ultimately absorbing view of a life otherwise forgotten in the background of an awesome and overpowering war.
By the way, a little off the subject, but I’m suddenly reminded of an interesting film I saw on DVD while I was recovering from the flu in the Philippines last September. Titled In Love and War, it starred Chris O’Donnell as the young Ernest Hemingway and Sandra Bullock as the nurse with whom he fell in love while recuperating from a battlefield injury in Italy. Anyway, I know that critics panned it but I was completely enthralled. I’d never been much of a Hemingway fan, but I really liked the way the film revealed the impetuous Hemingway’s passion and how it influenced his later work. (The story is that A Farewell to Arms is based on his ill-fated love affair with the nurse played by Bullock.)
The wartime scenes are brief but brutal in its violence, and sometimes you get tired of the heavy-handed way in which the director interprets the romance between the two doomed lovers (you get the sense that Bullock was told, “This is Ernest Hemingway, the man who’s going to grow up to be one the greatest American novelists ever, so make sure you act like it when you make love to him!”). Otherwise, though, it’s a good film to watch to see how a writer takes what life hurls at him and uses it all to fuel his art.