“Today is the day I start my novel.”
That’ s the first line of this blog and the first line of my novel. I’m calling it a novel because that’s what it feels like it’s going to be in the end. The great thing about writing a novel is that it can be said that you have a long-term project going and that always sounds like something productive. If you’re going to be an “artist” of some kind and produce work which is pleasing to you the novel is the most wholesome and all-American form going. Even if the novel did get its start in Spain in 1605 with the publication of Don Quijote.
Until now, I’ve generally thought of myself as someone who writes poetry. These blogs have been the longest bits of prose I’ve ever written with the exception of the odd paper for an English undergrad class. I’ve always liked poetry because you can get away with lyrical approaches, say foolish things in the name of love or truth and they are short, quick and are capable of decent mileage (memorable, that is, again due to their shorter length and play with language).
Then again, I’m over forty and it’s time to face facts: very few buy a book of poetry in their entire lives while many more buy at least one novel. I’m really in love with the fact that I get to hear my own voice and thoughts rolling around in a novel in ways that are impossible with a poem.
In poems, I follow the language. In a novel, I imagine I’ll follow the ideas and the characters with some kind of plotline being my savior to pull me out of dead ends.
I’ve decided that since I’m a beginner and distrust my own experience as the stuff that could make great reading I will base my book upon the skeletons and carcasses of other great works of fiction. I’m starting with the idea of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. I’ve read the book more than twice and enjoy the ways in which history and the fantastic–or science fiction–are held together with baling wire and good wishes. Then I’m adding in what I’m beginning to read and understand from “Diary of a Madman” by Nikolai Gogol. I like epistolary texts to begin with (ever read The Collector, by John Fowles?) and who can resist saying, “Gogol” especially when we’re all tired of hearing about “Google”?
I’m also going to try and include some Marcus Aurelius, not because of how well I know his works (I went to a state university, after all), but because I want to get to know them and because any material recommending balance and moderation seems to be missing from our times. Montaigne will find his way in there as well for the same reason.
One thing I’d like to accomplish as a goal is to create an apocalyptic story device as brilliant and simple as Vonnegut’s Ice-9 from Cat’s Cradle. Another goal is to create a great character name such as Billy Pilgrim or Candide which can give me a grounding or a directional beacon like a piece of lodestone. It may sound superficial, but I think that great character names serve to pull things along and would give me confidence, as a writer, that I knew where the storyline is headed.
Please think good thoughts about my project. If you have any ideas about how to get a grant to buy some writing time, please let me know. Any ideas for plots, characters, settings, etc., that you’ve always wanted to see in a novel, please let me know. I am a fan of pastiche as well. If you have any horror stories, I’m always willing to listen and try to learn from others.
I hope all of you folks are well.