Wednesday, October 27, 2004

novel thoughts

With the beginning of November just around the corner, I need to start thinking about the novel I've committed to completing in 30 days. I know, I know, it's so absurd that I feel like simultaneously giggling hysterically and bashing my head against the wall - what have I set myself up to do? Don't you just love the adrenaline rush of a challenge?

No one ever taught me how to write a novel, so basically I'll have to wing it. However, this does not mean that I am completely in the dark. As I keep telling people who ask me how to write, the key is in reading what you plan to write. And I do read novels (though my appetite for short fiction has overshadowed my taste for novels) so I have a basic understanding of the kinds of structures and goals of a number of different types of novels - novels of initiation (Bildungsroman, Erziehungsroman, K├╝nstlerroman), picaresque, historical, epistolary, social, naturalistic, regional, novel of the soil/sea/air, key novel, metaphysical, novel of manners and other "literary" novels plus the so-called "genre novels" (replete with subcategories of their own). So more or less I can structure one.

One of my issues is length. I am comfortable at the 4000-5000 word count for my short stories. It is as if my brain is locked into that mode. I know I need to change my manner of thinking and writing to accomodate my goal, but now that I begin to think about what I'm going to write about, I'm appalled. It's the equivalent of writing 10-12 short stories. Of course, I could go the somewhat easier route and write 10 short stories and link them altogether with a master framing story.

Other aspects (such as POV, tone or even authorial voice) do not terrify me as much because I make those same choices when I write in short form anyway.

I'm thinking maybe I can approach it in the way I write my plays. I write one-act plays primarily because I enjoy the the inherent challenges of the form. One time, I decided to write a full-length play and I stared at the empty screen because I didn't know what to do. Then I thought about what I wanted to write, decided to punish myself even more by making it a musical, and then structured and outlined it as a musical, then sat and began writing the damn thing. When I hit a dead end, I decided I needed a break, so I began a different one-act play, to convince myself that I was not completely inutile. In the course of a couple of days, I finished both, entered them in Palanca competition, and was flabbergasted when both won.

In other words, I'll just structure the damn novel and write in parts I am able to write.

Why am I taking this thing so seriously? Well, that's just me. I certainly don't want to write trash or just pump out meaningless drivel for the sake of reaching 50000 words. It doesn't have to be award-winning or anything like that, but it should be something I can be proud of.

Sigh. Four days to go.


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