a scene from the first draft of a long-in-the-making novel

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Last week I thought I had finished the novel I'd been working on. But then I read it one more time, and I saw. It was a shaggy 5,000 words too long. It was few shades shy of continuity. It was riding a little high on all the research I had done. And so I spent another several days sitting, thinking, dreaming Florence—shucking off favorite scenes and sentences, because scenes and sentences alone don't make a book.

It's still just a first draft, and it will be just a first draft until Tamra Tuller reads it through. I will return to this novel again. But for now, on this day, I will chill with my son, who has returned home for the day.
 And then, next weekend, I will go to New Orleans to see one of the students who inspired one of the characters in this novel, to take her out for breakfast. And after that I will live in the not-writing-a-novel space that an exhausted writer must sometimes claim as her own.

A very simple scene from a novel that almost became too complex:

We keep to the edges of the streets, out of the way of the bikes and the crowds. Little churches and side streets, scaffold dust, gray pigeons, the Duomo like a lighthouse, the green stones, the white stones, the dirty stones of Florence. The San Lorenzo market is a river of wallets, purses, scarves, the cheap Chinese suitcases that tourists buy to carry their fresh haul home. We force our way through, my hands in my pockets, my body just bones and blur, and I risk nothing. The Medici chapel is square and solid, a tomb for a tomb—the night and day, dusk and dawn of Michelangelo’s Sagrestia Nuova.
            There’s a chip of blue stone in the boy’s ear. There’s a chip of ….
            “Keep up.”
Jack’s place is a bar between postcard shops, racked souvenirs. It’s a counter with stools, the legs of netted ham hanging from wood beams, a case of neon gelato. Jack slides up and orders a duo of cream cheese on a thick crust, two tall cans of coke from a man who knows his name. The walls are papered with magazine covers and old news, faded maps of Florence.
“Mom takes you here?” I ask.
“Cream cheese, Nads. Philadelphia cream cheese.”


Wendy said...

And this is why I love your books, Beth. I was there, right there. Totally love it.

Anonymous said...

I can see it. Looking forward to the finished book!

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

I'm already in love with this book, Beth. And in awe at your brilliant talent. I cannot wait to read this! Do you have a pub date? Please tell us you do! And cover art coming, too, right?? :-)

Unknown said...

Ohh, can't wait til this one is out! :-)

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