Friday, January 29, 2016

The Monster You Call a Novel

So many things can go wrong when crafting a novel. Shall we?
  • Your characters are cardboard. Flat Stanley, if you will (although for a flat kid, he has immense personality).
  • The plot splits off into threads of lunacy. Lunacy! No logic, I tell you, such that you can't dig out of the rabbit hole (see, it happened to Alice!) and you just have to stay there playing croquet with a mad woman.
  • Nothing happens. Absolutely nothing but the workings of your characters' meandering minds. Though Holden Caulfield is the shining exception. (You literary types, button it. I know you think nothing has to happen in your novels, but it does anyway.)
  • Secondary (or, God forbid, tertiary) characters upstage the protagonist/antagonist. How can this happen? They start out so cute and sweet and then - DEAFENING SUCKING SOUND - you feel compelled to write novels to explain them (anyone heard of Bree Tanner?). (Other writers would call this a spinoff, collateral, branding extraordinaire and run with it until the train is too far gone.) (Again, Bree Tanner and her brood will NEVER die).
    Scary, isn't it?
  • You think writing in ALL CAPS or using parenthetical phrases will make the story more interesting. (ahem)
  • The hero dies too soon. It seems to work in psychological thrillers, but Hitchcock, you are not. 
  • A hundred-thousand words into the story and you haven't the vaguest idea when it will end or how. Or the opposite, 10K words in, and you're finished. Separate but equal problems.
  • The gangly mess you loved is no longer lovable because, in fact, you lose interest in the storyline. If you can't love it, no one else will.
  • You finish, writing 50K-80K words, tidily wrapping up loose ends, and set it aside for a few weeks. Then you reread it. Realize you may have wasted a good eight months to two years of your life. Doughnuts and a good cry are in order. But they won't help the revisions.
All these, and so much more, make writing novels a scary proposition. Novels eat up your time, your hemoglobin, your sanity, your ability to think of anything else. I say to friends, they are monsters. I have to write poems inbetween novels because a poem is a few lines, finished, neat. Yes, they can be improved but in minuscule proportion. Novelist must be obsessive and a little off-kilter. Does this help? It can't hurt.

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