This month saw my efforts on this blog gradually slow. Not surprising, I suppose. This is in keeping with my M.O. when it comes to these sorts of things. February, however, was not at all uneventful. Finished up a story, started work on editing another, and ultimately came to a decision that I had at least two ideas that were probably novel length.
I have some misgivings about writing a novel. One of them is just silly. I worry that without building my short story muscles, I will lack the strength to endure the grueling novel writing process. However, when I really think about it, aren’t novels and short stories fundamentally different? At risk of overusing an analogy, I would compare the two to sprints and marathons. Sure, being particularly strong in one __may__ help you in the other — but that is no guarantee. The types of stories I want to tell involve more than a what I can cram into a 20-page short story. So, why keep these ideas stuffed in my head or crammed in my “brainstorm” OmniOutliner document? Why not just muddle through and get to work on them?
After spending a few days cogitating, mulling over one of these ideas, writing down thoughts, developing a nifty OmniOutliner template (complete with cunning use of AppleScript!), I did just that today — got down to business. Essentially, my attitude is this: “The best time to work on my first novel is right now.” So, I work on it. I do all I can to eschew idiotic questions with which I constantly wrestle:
* Is it good enough?
* Who wants to read this?
* Will publishers laugh at my very existence?
Forget all that. Just write. I can’t say I’m pleased with my production — but I am pleased to say that I got in at least a few good things. Does it need work? Absolutely. Even the best writing can use a nice day at the spa (some writing, however, needs extensive surgery and prolonged hospital visits…).
I was browsing a book earlier this week called _Ernest Hemingway On Writing_. Good title. Hemingway never really wrote specifically on this topic, but through his letters and _A Moveable Feast_, we can learn a bit about his thoughts on writing and his process. Editor Larry W. Phillips has cleverly arranged these snippets (a sentence from here, a paragraph from there) into various themes. In one of these sections, I found a quick note from Hemingway about when it is best to write. Essentially, he says that the best time to stop writing is when you know what is going to happen next. That way, when you pick it up the next day, you’ll have a place to start.
I find a lot of wisdom in that. So much of writing is momentum. I’ve got to keep that momentum rolling or else the project feels like it stalls — at which point those ugly questions really come to the fore.
Earlier today, I was talking on the phone with a comedian friend of mine. He was saying that distraction (losing momentum) during writing causes a really nasty chain of events that looks like this:
bq. This isn’t funny → There’s no way to make this funny → I’m not funny → I’m a bad person.
Funny — but true! I get down on myself.
So, here’s to taking Hemingway’s advice and conserving some momentum. I’ve written over 1500 words on this thing today, and no exactly what happens next — I’ll pick up there tomorrow (or later tonight if I care to…).