Posted by Ben Pfeiffer on Jan 19, 2013
Every year for three years I attended the Eckerd College Writers’ Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, and this year is no exception. The first two years, I came as a student, and I studied fiction with Stewart O’Nan (Novel Writing) and Tom Perrotta (Short Story Writing). The next year, though, they invited me to serve as the faculty assistant, which essentially means functioning as a driver and helper for the writers who teach at the conference. I even sat in on Michael Koryta’s Narrative Workshop and gave my opinion on the submissions. This year I’m not sitting in on the workshops, but I am back to assist, and in the hours when the authors are teaching, I’ll be writing on my novel. It’s a writing vacation, you might say. A chance to sit and think about my book. Usually when I write these days it’s very early in the morning or late at night.
The book isn’t finished. But for a story I conceived almost 3 years ago—and, no, I haven’t been writing it continuously for 3 years—it has come along remarkably well. All of the story is outlined. All of the characters are connected. Many of the words are written. They’re just not in the right order yet. I know the structure, the conceits. I know the emotion behind the book, the complex architecture, the small, strange moments. I know exactly how many words the book will be, approximately, how many parts it will contain and how many sections in each part. I have a title and an epigraph. I’ve written almost all of the key scenes. On the plane to Florida, I made a list of the scenes I have left to write. Then I need to continue polishing what I have. I need to make it into a manuscript. And then, while I wait for an agent to sign me, I need to start writing the next book. For the first time in ages, I feel proud of what I’m doing as a writer. I’m determined to see this through to the end.
I can’t think of much else to say. Even though it’s dark outside, I’m going to brew some coffee and stay up, writing, puzzling over this scene and that sentence. Tomorrow I get to wake up and drive to the airport to pick up some of the faculty. The drive will take us across the open waters of Tampa Bay. But that’s in the future. Right now, in the room where I’m writing, there’s nothing stopping me from finishing this book. I’d better post this, close my browser window, and get to work on it.