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A Novel Or Bust

Posted on 01.13.2014 at 12:16
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I decided on this a few months ago, but it seems appropriate to share it now with everyone talking of resolutions and goals for the new year: I’m going to write a novel.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. When I was younger and had far more braggadocio, I attempted two novels, one a rather bland idea stretched thin and the other a by-the-numbers fantasy that I can only charitably call derivative. I didn’t get very far with either of those projects before I realized they weren’t worth finishing—if I didn’t like the story I was writing, I held little hope anyone else would. Those attempts—which I’m sure I labeled failures at the time—likely soured me on any subsequent tries at writing a novel.

I turned my attention to short fiction and everything changed. While I did—and still do—have a tendency to riff on old ideas, I found that I could tolerate the familiarity short pieces accommodate. I liked the potential for experimenting with style, form, character, and so on, unlike a novel, which demands a certain consistency. And I liked the satisfaction of seeing a project finished, whether successful or not, in a relatively short timeframe, rather than chipping away at something on blind faith (and maybe some stubbornness).

Lately, I have novels on my mind. I read a lot of short fiction this past year, and, though my love of the form hasn’t diminished any, I’m craving the immersion novels deliver. And with school claiming the bulk of my time, I feel like I need an anchor in the creative world. Leisure reading has been instrumental in that, as has writing short stories, but both have been sporadic. I can’t help wondering, then, if a single large writing project, instead of several smaller ones, would improve my focus any.

Besides which, I’ve been thinking about time and regret, priorities and choices. Existential stuff, as you do. I don’t want to die without ever having made a sustained, earnest attempt at a novel. I want to prove to myself that I can. I want to test my creative powers. I want to make a grandiose gesture of commitment to the writing life, despite my professional obligations. To do so, I’m choosing to write a novel.

As you might expect, I no sooner made the decision than the questions began: What are you going to write a novel about? By when? What if all that time and effort results in a book you can’t publish? Can you decide to write a novel, or do you just get an idea like a bolt from the heavens? And more occur to me with each passing day. I’ve managed to quiet the doubts, since I’m still in the process of brainstorming. We’ll see how long that lasts and how long it takes for thought to become deed. More on this as it unfolds.

A number of you have written novels. I’d love to hear your experiences, especially in the early stages.


scattereddark at 2014-01-13 19:36 (UTC) ()
I highly recommend P.C. Wrede's blog on writing: http://pcwrede.com/blog/. She's a novelist who is best known for YA Fantasy. She discusses many of the questions you have. She also just released a book that compiles her blog posts on writing called Wrede on Writing.
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