Friday, May 06, 2005

How-to guide: Writing a novel (the Mahd way)

As a writer, I wouldn't say that I'm prolific. Indeed, I'm tied for the least published author with everyone else who hasn't ever been published. I don't count this blog as published material for two reasons:

#1. Nobody reads it.
#2. Nobody cares.

Those two items- stumbling blocks, if you will, are the bane of any writer. I'm sure there are writers out there who stroke their beards and adjust their monocles and, in between long draws of strangely-scented cigars, shake their heads and say that they don't write for the recognition- it is the art that counts.

These writers are filthy liars. Inside the heart of anyone who writes, from your 10-year-old child who has just composed a poem regarding the more toothsome aspects of chocolate ice cream to your everyday Twain or Longfellow (Even a Chrichton, if you must scrape the bottom of the barrel) is that yearning for their work to be read. To be loved and understood. Just as the musician sings to the hopes and fears of their peers, or alternatively belts out a post-production, soulless pop ditty, so does the writer scribble out a somewhat roundabout lesson on life. Orwell could have just made Animal Farm consist of "Hey, look out for the commies" and been done with it, but that defeats the purpose of literature.

I do occassionally have the sudden fury and appreciation to take up my pen (by which I mean by keyboard) and craft The Novel By Which All Others Will Hereafter Be Judged Against (and of course, be inferior to). If "Anonymous" can be such a prolific writer, why not me? I have a blog that nobody reads, and by God, if that doesn't qualify me, what does?

I have a rather long commute to work, and if the thought strikes me at precisely the right time, I can pass the entire time by entertaining myself with clever plot devices and situations, character development and other crap like that. It's not unlike the Lottery Fever, which has so far claimed over 5 million lives in the Southwest. In that particular affliction, one fantisizes about how to portion out winnings to family and friends. It's the subject of a different bl0g entry, in any case.

So to continue, the wheels and gears are spinning in my head as I drive, and the spirit of the thing has completely consumed me. Now I am the story, and when I arrive somewhere where I can but record those many thoughts, it will be like a whirlwind, and the story will leap unbidden to the paper. I will have to do naught but hold on and perhaps enjoy a cool drink.

In the reality of the situation, either one of two things happen. In the first situation, I arrive home to find things in disarray- the dishes need done, dinner needs preparing, there's a game which inexorably draws me in for several hours. The second is more positive- I am able to settle myself into a chair and prepare to write the great Novel. And indeed, I lay into it with the heart of a man driven. And then I check my work and find that I've written a page and a half in 3 hours.

What happened to the fire and passion? The thoughts shooting out of my mind, developing the story into what it should be? The problem, I've found, is that I have an excellent outline, and a very hollow story. Like a chocolate easter egg, the whole is a finely decorated shell, but the interior is hollow, or worse, filled with that Cadbury creme stuff.

These setbacks would daunt a lesser man, and so, occassionally, I'm daunted sufficiently. Sometimes, though, the drive to create is overwhelming, so I press on. I move to storyboard what I'm going to do, and lay it out, even to go so far as to determine exactly how many pages each chapter should be. It's very important to have chapters that are of proper length, due to the bedtime phenomenon. It's my own practice of trying to read books chapter by chapter. Short chapters beguile the reader into reading on, and then they get trapped in Sudden-80-page-chapter, from which there's no escape for those who read in the same way that I do.

At some point, whether it's when I arrive at home, or after a successful night of planning,writing and eating sugary snacks, I retire to bed. And forget everything I planned and thought about the previous day. I may even venture to open the story and give it a once-over. That's as far as it usually goes, though. Work or other necessary duties beckon, and when I return to the story all of the wonderful and imaginitive ideas I has have disappeared. All is not lost- at some point I will remember the story in traffic and think of all new (and remembered) ideas, and the cycle begins anew. By using this process, I estimate that my first book will be ready in about 33 years. Look for it on the Super Internet at a Hyperretailer near you!

You'll know it by it's title: "Hey, Look Out For The Commies"

2 Comments:

At 3:49 AM, Blogger kangaroogrrrl said...

If "Anonymous" can be such a prolific writer, why not me?

Well, based on how often you update your blog... ;-)

Thanks for the comment, by the way.

 
At 4:00 AM, Blogger ChickyBabe said...

An insightful look into writing for art or for an audience. And I’m smoothing my hair behind my ear (sorry no beard or cigar here) as I type this.

Before I started my blog, I always wrote for me, and allowed my best friend to read some of my stories. While the purpose has not changed, I find having a small audience (note: not writing for a small audience) is very rewarding and addictive. But it has not forced me to change what I write about. It still do it for me.

 

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