Writing a novel, part 437

by sethsawyers

I have been lax in writing little things here and there about this novel that’s now in its fourth year. For many reasons, but mostly because it’s all I can do to try to write the thing itself and also because I’m so new to it and am sf2750425601eb4b5d8317efec99159ddo unsure about so many things that who am I to profess about this sweet, difficult sport?

But I can say one thing for sure, and that is that I’m almost certainly getting better at it. I’m basically teaching myself how to do it, making tons of mistakes, some of them huge mistakes, and am learning mostly by reading books as I go and by trial and error writ large.

I’ll try to write more about it, but I can say a few things.

  1. It’s hard, and it takes a lot of words and sentences and paragraphs to make a novel.
  2. The kind of story I’m trying to write–half literary, half story about two people fucking up and meeting each other and fucking up some more before giving it a final go–seems to want to be all about deeply felt characters moving through a series of actions driven by their own characters.
  3. My urge as a writer is to let my characters be happy, and feel stuff, and sort of transcend. But I’ve found that fiction requires difficulties. I have to constantly remind myself to throw difficulties at them. New characters and bad choices can help in this regard.
  4. I didn’t set out at all to write a book that required much in the way of research–rather I wanted to try to write about the stuff I already knew and loved and cared something about–but I have found it necessary to research the following: the 1994 World Cup, mid-90s hip hop, the 1988 Orioles (false start that won’t wind up in the novel), very tall people and their medical problems, 1994 Baltimore, 1994 Norfolk, Virginia, and 1994 Cumberland, Maryland, balsa wood, hang gliders (another false start), and the making of pants.

I’m in the throes of a third draft. I feel better about this one. It’s harder work than the first two but it is, I hope, because I’m getting in there and doing the heavy work of figuring out my characters and figuring out effective plots and figuring out how to make these three people in my head come alive, both beautifully and whatever it is opposite.

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