Monday, September 30, 2002
As I cruise around the Internet a lot, I ran across this op/ed piece by Joseph Epstein:
It began, “According to a recent survey, 81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them ó and that they should write it. As the author of 14 books, with a 15th to be published next spring, I’d like to use this space to do what I can to discourage them.”
It seems that his reason for discouraging us is that the books we write may not be very good. And that it’s a time consuming process. And that it sometimes makes you feel a little muddled, or even bad at some point.
Yeah, some of us write from vanity, to get love, to gain acceptance, to put forth our own political agendas ... I could go on and on. But is it really his place to tell anyone not to write a book if they’re writing it for the wrong reason?
Which would bring me to the reason for writing my book.
I guess I’m writing to get love, belong to a community, advance my political agenda, to be able to call myself a novelist (I figured I oughta finish another before I really call myself that) ... what Mr. Epstein did not do was tell us why his books would be superior to one of my hastily written, stream-of-consciousness fictive works.
I could be peeved at his diatribe, but mostly after reading the piece, I was left thinking ... this wasn’t a very good essay. It’s all over the place. I’m not sure what the point was, if it was supposed to be funny, it wasn’t. If it was supposed to be serious, it wasn’t. In all reality, the only thing it succeeded in was some sort of odd irony. He complained that people who think they can write a book don’t write very well, and here he’s written poorly about that.
No, I’m not dissuaded by Mr. I’ve-Been-Published-14-Times. I’m gonna be published too.
Sunday, September 22, 2002
Last year I wrote a novel in November. It was about 54,000 words.
This year I’m getting ready now. I know the story I want to write and in order to make the transition from “stuff in my head” to “stuff in text format that makes sense” I am going to take some steps.
Some of these may be helpful to others who are also preparing for the great November attempt. They are in no particular order.
1. Get maps and other resource materials together. I’m setting my piece in San Francisco and Romania. So I’m going to get a great street map of San Francisco and a travel guide (you know, one of those blend-in-like-a-native thingies) for Romania. Set these by your desk.
2. Make lists of character names. I know this sounds weird, but it’s great to have a list of names that you can use at the drop of hat. I spent 90% of my first novel without a name for my main character. It woulda been so much easier if I just had one from the beginning.
3. Make notes of possible plot ideas and scenes, places and things. You think you know them now, but come November 22nd, you’ll be floundering for something and lamenting the fact that the book isn’t turning out at all like you thought it would ... those notes will really help keep you on track (if that’s your goal).
4. Read and watch things as research. My book is going to have some stuff about counterfeiting, so I’m going to gather some information about it so at least I’ll know what intaglio printing is ... These kinds of things are going to be very helpful when you’re stuck. We all relied on long descriptive, expository passages from time to time
5. Think up a couple of sentences that will sum up what you’re writing. If you tell people you’re writing a novel, their first question will be, “Oh, what’s it about?” Once you get tired of the snappy answer, “About 50,000 words.” you might wanna have something else to say. Mine is a caper style piece, about an artist who reluctantly gets involved with a bunch of counterfeiters in San Francisco. This will also help you focus on your goal of figure out how to make that come to life in 50,000 words or more.
Saturday, September 21, 2002
During November it's all about me writing a novel. Sometimes it's about whalewatching. You know, and then there's other stuff.