There’s this novel I’ve got that I’ve wanted to write for several years now..
You quite often hear that sort of thing said by such types who fancy themselves as writers: “Oh, I could definitely write a great novel, you know. If only I had the time to do so..”
Such sentiments are quite frustrating to me, because I’m unable to use “I don’t have the time” as an excuse, because I’ve definitely had plenty of time. Instead, I seem to find myself lacking the inclination to write anything. Which is mystifying, to say the least, because I’ve spent the past few years convincing people, and myself, that writing a book is my fondest ambition.
So, recently I decided to examine why I can’t seem to motivate myself to write more than a couple of rough pages of this thing and slowly; a realisation dawned.
Most novelists start writing because they have a story they want to tell, whether that story be an epic yarn or an embarrassing erotic fantasy based on an existing series. Others like to create whole imagined worlds or philosophies and then use novels as a means of developing or exploring them.
Here’s how the genesis of my own novel came about: A few years ago I was sitting in a Creative Writing class back in Uni when, all of a sudden, a lone sentence miraculously formed within my head.
It was a great sentence; I’m not afraid to say so. At the time, I was mightily impressed with it and I’m still extremely proud of it to this very day. “This sentence” I declared, to nobody in particular “is undoubtedly the most perfect opening sentence to a novel that will ever exist”
So that’s how my novel begins; with an outstanding sentence. A sentence which I’m not going to repeat here because I suffer a paranoia that if I discuss my ideas publicly, some villainous arse might swoop in and infringe on them for his own purposes; subsequently making millions off the back of my intellectual property, like the bastard he is – but I digress.
So, whilst I had this great opening sentence, I found myself struggling to move beyond that point. I had a vague idea of a story going on but I still wasn’t sure how it was going to progress. History suggests this isn’t that great an approach for me; back in Uni I tried writing a piece by automatic writing, which is where you basically just bash on the keys and see what happens. It seemed like a great idea to begin with; I think I imagined myself somehow hauling some transcendent, surrealist masterpiece completely out of the ether, but in the end, I stopped after about half a page because I had absolutely no idea what the hell was going on or where exactly it was going.
All I had to show for my efforts was a paragraph about a homeless man sitting under a bus shelter and shouting at a rat; hardly a compelling narrative. Still interested in the idea of a surrealist piece, I decided to rework it into a drug-induced hallucination at a music festival. It may have only been a framing device but it seemed to work wonders; I could have written the thing forever, such was the benefit of having a plan in mind. The finished piece won me plenty of plaudits with my Creative Writing tutors and it was happy days all around.
When it came to writing my dissertation (Which I posted on this site) I employed a similarly simple framing device: guy walks down road, ends up in a shed. Repeat from different perspectives. From then on it pretty much took on a life of its own and I was able to finish it comfortably within deadline.
So, when it came to my novel I already had the great sentence and I thought the same thing would work again. Only, it didn’t. Turns out a basic framing device is only good for a short story – a novel requires much more depth, the likes of which I seemed unable to find. So I did what I knew best, I ran away from it and hid, telling myself half-heartedly that I would get round to doing it properly one day, but that day only seemed to slip further and further into uncertainty.
I still think about writing that novel, and I keep telling myself that it has to happen – not the least because I have several other potential novels waiting to be written afterwards some of which are even a bit more fleshed out. I don’t know why I can’t just write those first, but I like to do things in a certain order; probably due to the British obsession with queuing.
So my objective for this year (I won’t say resolution because those only exist to be broken) is to, at some point, properly sit down and plan this thing out. So that it can finally come to fruition and stop taking up valuable space within my head.
Of course, it might be that I’m just lazy and making excuses for myself…I’ll let you decide that one.