monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

2 minutes reading time (460 words)

Meringues, Ups and Downs of a First Draft -- and Ann Patchett Comes to My Rescue

What in the world, you must be wondering, do meringues have to do with writing? Here comes the explanation: I am writing this blog entry to the background sound of my mom's old mixer -- inside the mixing bowl are five egg whites I am hoping to turn into a beautiful, delicious meringue. There's more to this story: I made a previous attempt at meringue-making last week, and it didn't turn out so well. Another person might give up on meringues altogether... but not me. I am the sort who soliders on. It is something I have learned from writing novels.

I have recently started working on what I am hoping will be my eighteenth YA novel. You'd figure that after all those other books, I'd know exactly what I'm doing, right? Instead, here I am... feeling like I am figuring out the process all over again!

I do love starting a new story. It's always a little scary, but for me, it's a time of endless possibility and of hope for great things. Unfortunately, those good feelings don't last forever. I keep writing and then, well, I begin to see the flaws and the problems and my own weaknesses. But I keep slogging, going backwards to fix up what I have already done, and slowly, slowly moving forwards.

I have found that sometimes a book comes to the rescue, even when I am not looking for a book to rescue me. Well, that's what happened when a friend, fellow writer Elaine Kalman-Naves, gave me Ann Patchett's collection of essays, This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage (Harper, 2013). Elaine had told me that though the book is partly about Patchett's marriage, it is also about writing.

So, during the last couple of weeks, after my days at the computer, I have taken solace in Patchett's wisdom. It turns out that she, too, goes through similar ups and downs when she writes. Here is, for instance, her description of writing a novel: "Novel writing, I soon discovered, is like channel swimming: a slow and steady stroke over a long distance in a cold, dark sea." Well, I keep telling myself, if Patchett feels that way too, I must not be doing such a bad job of it! Patchett also talks about working through those rough patches: "I holed up in my apartment and wrote, and plenty of times I got stuck."

I just checked on those egg whites. I wish I could say they are making stiff peaks the way the recipe says they should, but just like writing, this meringue business may require that I keep trying, working through those rough patches. Here's to fancy summer desserts, first drafts, and advice that brings comfort!





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Monday, 04 December 2023

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