Wednesday, August 29, 2018

How Not to Write a Novel

Warren Murphy, the creator of The Destroyer, shows the pitfalls awaiting many would-be writers in the first lesson of his Writing Class:


You cannot allow this to happen to you. It already happens to too many people.

First, we declare ourselves to be "working on" a novel.

What's this great work of art about?

The old joke is that "it's about 200 pages," but this is serious stuff, so no jokes. Remember, we have decided to become literary lions so this is a book, a magnum opus if you will, and what it's about is easy. It's about us, 'cause all first novels are autobiographies. It'll talk about our trials, our triumphs and how we survived it all and became a beacon of hope for the world, or at least our personal corner of it.

Obviously, we've got to think a little bit about what's in the book but that's no problem, and while we're thinking about it, we'll talk about it. A lot. Cocktail parties are a good place to start.

Another thing we've got to think about is the title. The title's really important and we have to spend a lot of time on that. So we try different titles on our friends. Which one do you like best? "Innocence Reborn?" Or "Winning in the Day of Despair?" Eventually, we pick one and then -- at last, thank God, we get a chance to get down to writing.

And we write a page. That's what we writers do.

And the next day we write another page. Now we've got two pages. Who would have thought this would all be so easy?

But then the car starts leaking oil and, darn, wouldn't you know it, it takes a couple of days to get it fixed. And let's face it, we can't work when cars and doctors and bill collectors keep intruding on our muse. But that'll straighten out soon.

In the meantime, we tell everybody we meet how well the novel is going but then we sit down and read the two pages we wrote and it's not quite what we wanted.

So we put it aside for awhile and work on the dedication to the book. This is real important and it will be even more important if we do it in Latin. That'll show everybody that we are serious authors, not purveyors of some cheap commercial crap that anybody can write.

For a while we were going to settle on a dedication we stole from Jonathan Swift but that's kind of cheesy. Instead, we take a line or two from the Latin Mass. "Introibo ad altare dei. And there I will find my new life."

Okay, back to work. We've got a title now and a dedication and two pages, so let's rewrite those pages to make them perfect. While we're doing that we will continue to read them at cocktail parties....through every change and transmogrification, we'll read them. Over and over again.

Naturally we will get a wonderful reaction. Family and friends know they are listening now to the voice of anguished truth telling not just our story but theirs also. And they always cover their mouths when they yawn.

But no matter how much we rewrite, those pages are still missing something. Maybe it's time to work on our Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

That ought to be worth a couple of weeks and as soon as we're done with it, then we'll get back to that novel and really, really finish it up. We've got two pages already so the book is so close to being done.

* * *

If that sounds like you, please go away now. You will not be happy here; these blogs are for novelists, not wannabes, not fakers.

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