Some novel-writing thoughts

by sethsawyers

I’m getting close to finishing. I think. You know, I hope. This is my first try at this, and so what do I know, but I can’t help but think that:

  • The reader, when he or she turns the page, for the most part is turning the page to see what happens next. And, at least for this writer, that what-happens-next part of the craft is not the most interesting part. The most interest parts are the Jesusmoments (sometimes the long moments) that happen when the character is done getting to where he or she needs to go and has a realization or when the story itself

    has a moment of realization. When there’s the ka-pow of beauty or wisdom. (I’ve just read Denis Johnson’s collection Jesus’ Son and his best moments are those ka-pow moments but the what-happens-next stuff happens to be more than compelling also.) It’s almost as if the writer slips in the parts he or she cares about like a parent slips in a bunch of spinach in with the otherwise sweet stuff. I realize this is a

    gross oversimplification and that the best writers will make all of this seamless and so that you maybe don’t know why you’re turning the page at all. In the masters’ hands, you’re just turning the page, and it’s more or less all ka-pow.

  • That said, I do often wrestle with how and when to do the ka-pow (if I even can). How much do you move your characters around? How much do you get them into danger? When and how do you “lift off” with your smarts and your insight and your beauty? I often wrestle with this balance. (I’ve been reading Emma Cline’s The Girlscline
    and she particularly is adept at doing just this in a very balanced, time-release way. Her character will do something dumb and then she’ll be very smart ab
    out something or at least beautifully dumb. And then she’ll do something else stupid and then be beautiful about it. And it all comes through that first-person filter, which is consistent and level. The close third-person I’m doing does allow you to step back now and then and rhapsodize from, say, the corner of the room as opposed to doing it from someone’s shoulder. At least I think so. I hope so.)
  • I’m trying, in this third try at an ending, to follow the feels and not the brains. I’ve done so much brain-ing this time around, trying to make it all go up and down in the right way, trying, essentially, to deliver and to not fuck it up. But now I’m trying to get a little less analytical and to try to let the soft, squishy parts take over. The brain, I think (I hope) got me to this point, and now that I think the ups and downs are in place, I’m trying to let it take itself all the way home.