I worked on my novel for six years, on and off. I completed and revised several drafts. Something was wrong with it, but I didn’t know what. My whole body went into it. My fingers, shoulders, knees, eyes. It grew, seed to forest. I gave it a name. I forgot about it. I cared, I didn’t. Nothing was so serious. I avoided it. These are all the places I traveled to throughout the years I said I was writing a novel: Puerto Rico, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Florida, Jamaica, Maryland, California, Texas, North Carolina, Illinois, Virginia, France, New York, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Zealand, Colorado, New Mexico, Maine. I wrote the most in Massachusetts. Other things I did that come to mind first, without thinking: painted walls, moved apartments, tried on wedding dresses, ate sushi, jumped rope, had dreams of lovers dying.
I decided my novel was not functioning. I said it too. It wasn’t mine. I left it, I pretended, in a seashell. I changed things about myself: my hair, how I spent my time, who I talked to, who I thought about. I ate the same. I had birthdays and felt like I was turning the same age over and over again. I liked that. I remembered my novel. I wanted to fix it. I knew what was wrong with it just a little too late. It’s never too late, people say, but it can be, actually. It could be if I want it to be.
I can give up on my novel – that’s one option. I can fix it – that’s another. I can repurpose it, too. I decided it’s not a waste, no matter what I choose. It’s perspective and practice. It’s problem-solving, both logical and emotional. I wanted so badly to say my novel was finished, but I won’t. It had an unsustainable hole, to be perfectly vague. I focused on the hole and ended up with a short story. I cut my favorite sentences (I don’t know how I found them, but I did). I cut my protagonist, some other characters. I pasted them into a new document. I saved the new document, I closed the novel. I stared at those sentences and wondered what I meant by them and wondered if they could mean something else. I gave my people new obsessions, kept some of the old. I replaced their names and made them move. I’m making the story say what I want. It’s already saying what my novel couldn’t, so you see, I’m not sad about it. It’s saying it in less words, less time. It cuts to the chase, just like I aspire to in real life in both critical and noncritical moments. This is how I’ll know it’s ready: When I don’t care what anyone else thinks of it. When I won’t care how many times I give it away and get it returned to me.
Marisela Navarro is a writer and pharmacist in Boston. Her fiction has appeared in Wigleaf, Flash Fiction Funny, 100 Word Story, Matchbook, and Shelflife Magazine. She is currently earning an MFA in creative writing at Emerson College where she is working on a short story collection.
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