Why You Love-Hate Writing And Struggle To Finish That Novel

There seems to be a strange obsession with writing novels. I’m not sure if that says more about the writers I know, or if that is true for the culture of writing today. This obsession is the overwhelmingly enthusiastic tune of, “Oh I have this great story! I’m going to write it! It’s going to be a novel! It’s going to make me a lot of money! I can be a professional writer!”

If I may be a voice of reason: Well, no. Not quite.

The first challenge is: does the story have redeeming literary qualities or does it appeal to market tastes? Can it be told with new and exciting use of language?
The second challenge is: will you actually have the motivation to start and finish?
The third challenge, being, of course: Does it even make sense as a novel? (And of course, if it doesn’t make sense it won’t make money).

The last question isn’t is your writing coherent enough for someone to bear to read 50,000 words of it? Rather, the question is, Does your story have the staying power and qualities for that format? When people think about fiction they seem to think in terms of novel vs. short story. But the vehicles for storytelling are many: short stories, novellas, script, vignettes, micro-fiction, etc.

When people think they want to write a novel and become a successful writer, what they really want to do is become a recognized storyteller. Part of being a great storyteller is choosing a form that is suitable for the story. If that’s a vignette, so be it. If it’s a one-paragraph micro-fiction, so be it.

A writer who is consistently producing work may have the upper hand as compared to a writer who is trying to force a story to work in one particular form. After all, who is closer to publishing a book (all other things equal)? An author who forces a story and struggles to write a page of a novel a day, or an author who writes a one paragraph micro-fiction on the daily? Surely, the later.

Character, plot, theme, setting, mechanics, style, devices: they’re all important. But just as one wouldn’t force a Rembrandt into a frame that doesn’t fit, one must also not force a story into a form that won’t carry it.

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3 responses to “Why You Love-Hate Writing And Struggle To Finish That Novel

  1. I couldn’t have said this any better myself! Incredible. People tell me all the time to write novels and I simply tell them that I write vignettes and short stories and for some reason, that isn’t good enough. I don’t blame them for not understanding, but I really enjoy the fact that I now can refer to something to explain why it isn’t that simple. There is a lot that goes into it. Great post!

  2. Hello!
    I enjoyed reading your post! I personally enjoy novel length writing as well as short stories. There is definitely a place for both and it normally takes some decent brainstorming for me to see which route I should take that spark of an idea that start my writing process.
    I was amazed at how what I thought was going to be a one book story of mine turned into a trilogy. It is strange that such a simple idea led to a question, and that question lead to the answer which grew like a web until one day I thought: “Hey, this looks like a decent series. I should keep writing.”
    A year later, I had finished three novels but That was not without a bit of forced writing. I had the plot down but extracting the information went back and forth between opening the floodgates and licking the dew from a rock, seriously, some days I couldn’t write to save my life.
    Do I think that it could’ve been done in just two books, no. Does it seem I have a forth book, not really. I’m looking at two potential novellas but to call them book four and book five just doesn’t seem right.
    I think in todays world with the freedom if independent publishing that there should be discretion in forcing a book pass what is its proper length. I hate when Hollywood does that with sequels. Why would I think someone would want to read something that shouldn’t be?

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