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Journal of a novel: Aug. 30, 2016. Intent

August 30, 2016

In a series of posts, I’ll share both Steinbeck’s Journal of a Novel and what I learn from it, and I’ll show you what the writing life is like for me.

Although John Steinbeck didn’t work on his novel on March 28, he gave it a lot of thought. In his Journal of  Novel entry on that day, addition to ruminating about the character of Cathy Ames, he was a little in awe of his own ambition with regard to his work-in-progress:

My god this can be a good book if I can only write it as I can hear it in my mind.

I’ve been there. It all does seem so clear, so vivid, in my mind’s eye, but transmitting that in writing so that you can see exactly what I see is a challenge. No matter how carefully I choose my words, I may still fail, because the same word has different meanings for different people.

That’s a whole ‘nother blog post.

Something else that happens that’s delightful and at the same time scary is when readers find something in my work that I didn’t put there. And I’m not going to say the readers are wrong, that it’s not there. Often, it is there. I didn’t intend it, I didn’t see it, but by golly, they’re right. How’d that get there? How’d I do that?

It’s scary because we writers like to think that we’re in control of our writing. We try so hard to be deliberate, not to mention artful, about how we string words together. To find out that something’s going on independent of us, well, as Steinbeck said, if I can only write it as I can hear it in my mind …

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