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Issues of the Day A Writer's Worry: On Completing Draft Two of Dance of the Uroboros

I began writing preliminary notes and drafting sketches of what has become my current work-in-progress, a novel entitled Dance of the Uroboros, in early 2010. Although this is not an autobiographical work, during the period from 2002 to 2006 I underwent much of what is depicted in the novel --  a mortal struggle with end-stage liver disease – and  decided that I would chronicle what I had learned from the odyssey -- if I survived.

The lessons of that experience accorded me profound insights that have subsequently enabled me to live with greater awareness and more meaningfully than ever before. What I have attempted to do in imparting these lessons is to provide hope to those who whose present circumstances allow them to see only the faintest light at the end of the tunnel.


Advancing, But How Far Along?

In the past four years my initial notes and sketches have gone through two full drafts comprised of thousands of pages. Individual chapters have been revised multiple times. I have devoted many, many hours to the project.

I am not done yet but I soon foresee sending out the work to select readers, people whose judgment I value in order to receive feedback and perspective that will inform final revisions. Following that, my hope is that Dance of the Uroboros will be ready for editing, proofreading and finally publication.


But now with the second draft completed, I ask myself if Uroboros is truly ready for others to read?


A Very Different Work than Rise

My previous fictional work, Rise, A Novel of Contemporary Israel, took twenty-five years to complete. Of course, I did not work on it continuously and the initial year and the final two involved far more work than the others combined. Still, by any measure Rise, a political thriller, had a lengthy period of gestation, although in many respects it was a much easier book to write than Uroboros. The former's plot and characters remained remarkably stable across the years. The landscapes rendered in it were familiar to me and the sequencing of events was straightforward.


Dance of the Uroboros is a psychological and spiritual work involving considerable research (mainly medical) and complexity. It is less plot-driven than Rise and more concerned with the personal worlds of its characters.


Uroboros weaves into a single tapestry the present, defined by the  sixteen months that the book's protagonist, Eitan Rosnik, spends waiting for a transplant in a Jerusalem hospital, his memories of key events that led to his current forlornness, and the altered states of consciousness he experiences resulting from the physiological effects of his disease.  


The book encompasses multiple temporal dimensions and a diverse geography of experience, both real and imaginary, that must be carefully and relevantly rendered.

From the author's point of view, these are formidable challenges. It would be foolhardy not to question if I have succeeded.


A Writer's Worry

Now that the second draft of Uroboros is complete, I suffer a writer's worry: Have I pulled off what I have set out to do? Is the message clearly presented? Have I been successful in interweaving memory and present narrative with the content of illusionary states replete with symbolism and allegory? Is the thread of Eitan's life comprehensible and interesting to the reader? Has Eitan's expanding awareness of self and the internal changes he undergoes been well communicated?


For a writer, such concerns are of a kind that keeps one up at night. They define the line between literary success and failure.

Have I Succeeded?

In reading Draft Two my notes express satisfaction and often enthusiasm for the individual chapters; as distinct parts, they work. However, these parts have to function in ensemble and their summary effect must resonate a message that transcends them individually. Now I have to ask if the work "hangs together?" Did the message get through as intended? Does the narrative flow? Is the prose supple and engaging? Does the dialog leave the impression of truthfulness? 

Accordingly, the time has come then for another reading, one that is undertaken not with an authorial or editorial eye but from the perspective of a reader who encounters a book hoping to be rewarded by it.


In the coming week I will read the book in environs that do not easily allow me to "work" on it: During a long flight from Israel to Mexico I will focus only on determining whether Dance of the Uroboros allows the reader to enter Eitan Rosnik's world and be enhanced by the experience.


I should soon know better what remains to be done to make Dance of the Uroboros a meritorious read, one that will enrich the lives of those who generously venture into its pages.


Look for my assessment in a forthcoming post. 

© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved