A novel update, or writing dialogue is hard
It’s been roughly a month since I committed myself publicly to writing a novel. So far I’d say things are going pretty well. If nothing else, I haven’t stared at a blank page for a while and then abandoned the idea immediately, unlike some previous attempts, so that has to be progress. There’s a modest sized document with the better part of a two chapter drafts saved, as well as a few other one off documents with ideas and scraps of paragraphs that I wanted to capture for possible later use. In addition, my trusty black notebook contains a dozen pages of ideas, fragments, and character notes, and is proving to be a invaluable resource for me, since I tend to think of ideas at odd times. By carrying around the notebook with me I have a way to capture those little spurts of inspiration. (A little bit of fun Eastside High School journalism history here for those of you that remember/care: I wrote the entire satirical “Cheerleading Isn’t a Sport” column in about 45 minutes after bolting upright at 2 AM. Had I not written it then I probably would have woken up and forgotten all about it and saved myself 20 years of getting randomly attacked while walking down the street by very perky assailants. The point of this is extremely long digression is that I’ve got to write stuff down while I’m thinking about it or it will make it to print. Plus, cheerleaders get mad easily and carry grudges.)
I have learned a few things along way, and wanted to share those insights here.
- I haven’t stuck to any type of artificial writing count (i.e., I’m going to write X number of pages or dedicate X hours per day to writing), but I have at least tried to think about things each day and at least jot down notes as much as possible. Knowing myself to more rigid and organized I try to make this process, the staler the ideal will become and the likelihood of me deleting the whole folder increases ten-fold.
- The downside to writing a longer form work is that I find myself with less time and/or motivation to write shorter form pieces, namely here. I do enjoy this though so I’m working to strike a balance between the two. As neither one pays me a dime so far I think it is only fair because I do enjoy this a lot. Plus, there is a nice sense of accomplishment to actually finish something and be able to click “Publish” before getting up from the table.
- When I don’t have to go out in polite society and actually speak to people, I tend to abandon proper grooming rather quickly (much to the chagrin of my family.) Were I a full-time writer I’d likely end up looking like a combination of Ted Kaczynski, early Michael Stipe and a character from Herman Wouk’s “Don’t Stop the Carnival”, so I think it is for the best that I am not at this point.
- Writing narration generally comes rather easy to me, but the long form of the novel is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I don’t have to worry about page length or limits, so I’m free to go with ideas until they dry up. On the other hand, longer is not necessarily better, so I have to fight my stream of consciousness impulses and remember that brevity and conciseness have their virtues too, unless you are David Foster Wallace. And I am most assuredly not him.
- Conversely, writing dialogue is HARD. It’s a lot easier to say you’re going for some Joss Whedon-esque, quirky banter than it is to actually pull it off without sounding like a complete and utter tool. Case in point, I spend the better part of the morning writing about three pages of mostly dialogue and was so disgusted with it when I finished that I printed one of the pages out just to get the satisfaction of crumpling the page into a ball and tossing it across the room. That felt good, my friends.
So in summation, I have no schedule, little expectation the finished product will ever see the light of day, and a certainty that I will never be a screen writer, but I WILL finish this, if only as a gift to myself. Anything beyond that is just gravy. At the very least I can always post it here as some kind of serialized work once it is finished. Just feel free to skip any extensive dialogue passages unless I tell you otherwise.