Assembling a…(dare I say)…Thesis?
Snow piles outside and inside there are piles of papers across my desk. The first draft of the thesis is due a week from Monday and I’ve finally gotten far enough to warrant actually printing each lyrical essay and short story and playing around with sequence.
“Order informs content,” said Lynn Emmanuel in a guest craft talk at the last residency. While the order of my nonfiction is fairly straightforward – chronological – what I’m paying close attention to now is where the gaps are. Gaps in sequence are similar to poor transitions within the text of a single story. They call attention to themselves and therefore the larger project, rather than forming a bridge for readers to walk across and get lost into another story.
The fiction order was easy to decide. Third person limited story. Short fable. Then first person story. Three different styles, opening with the drastic shift in POV to remind readers (who might skim the table of contents) that we’re no longer in the realm of nonfiction.
Now I’m going through each lyrical essay, proofreading it in print version and making minor corrections. Some demand a deeper revision – such as the pieces I had workshopped in January that I haven’t touched since then. Others take five minutes to fix because they’ve been reworked over and over again and it’s on to the next one. Things get serious when I reach a gap that needs to be a bridge. Can I fill the gap with a new or old-but-revised lyrical essay? Do I need to eliminate one or both pieces on either side of the gap and see if the remaining pieces fit together? What does either option do for the manuscript as a whole?
If there’s an ounce of enthusiasm in my tone it’s true to heart. This is an exciting time—albeit just the beginning of a new phase that will last several intense months—but exciting all the same. Onward!