Novels 1, Me 0
(portrait of me after a library visit from here.)(Ed note: I felt such a shift after the last post. I think I finally made peace with my worst impulses, and hope that I can finally forgive myself and learn from my history. Thank you so much for being there. I wish I could tell you how much it helped. Believe me, it did. Thank you!)
Much as I love them, sometimes I think novels and I are in a type of war.
Picture it: I sit down with a much awaited new tome, ready to sit down and drink from the wisdom and technique of another writer, one who reached the holy grail. A complete novel. Publication. Cue champagne corks and violins.
Before I start to read, I decide that THIS time, my reading experience will be different. I will be reading to learn. I will keep track of scenes, notice clever plot points, unravel subplot ribbons for further examination. In short, I will crack the code. Read like a writer, not like a fan.
Ah, but then...I start to read the novel, and like Circe, it starts to croon its song. “Pay no attention to the writer behind the curtain...aren't these characters fascinating? Don't you want to know what happens next? Fall in...the water's great.”
And just like that, I'm in it again, swimming in the blue ocean of the book. I'm absorbed, compelled. Under the spell.
And it's all absolutely wonderful. Until I finish, and try to return to my own story. A novel...trying to be one, anyway. But it lacks that wonderful thickness...that verisimilitude.
A bad angel voice whispers that perhaps I am best served by continuing to write short stories. Maybe short stories are my default format, but...I want to write novels. I dream of writing novels. I prefer to read novels. I have to believe that its a skill I can learn.
I shoo her away, again.
“How did that writer DO that?” I mutter to myself as I peck words slowly across the white screen. “How do you create such a rich world? Lots of scenes? But which ones? And how many scenes, anyway?”
Shouldn't someone who reads as much as I do have an answer to these questions?
So, I put it to you—all you writers. Do you have certain novels you use as models for your own work? Do you take notes periodically? Re-read? Outline favorite novels to get scene counts and the like? Or do you just trust (as I used to) that you are absorbing all of this through the pleasure of osmosis?
(Yes, I am doing That Novel Dance again. Madam is about to start preschool, and suddenly I'll have open hours in the middle of a couple of days a week. If I am disciplined [ha, more in a future post on THAT], I should be able to make significant headway of a work. I don't want to talk too much about it, yet, for fear I'll talk myself right out of it!)
(PPS: And there it is...my 200th post! *throws confetti* I'm so grateful to have this place, and now that I am myself again [more on that bit of strangeness later] I hope it doesn't take me forever to write another 200. Thanks for reading me.)