Friday, February 3, 2012

On Writing a Novel

Because of its length, unlike writing a story or novella, writing a novel becomes an obsession. You can’t sleep at night because you’re going over the plot threads and characters in your head. You fall deeply into the minds of your characters. If they’re mad, you become mad. The question becomes how much to reveal of them. If you have ideas, how much to reveal of your ideas. I’m not a Franzen or DFW type. I don’t believe in showing or telling everything. Instead: aspects. Sides. Glimpses.

I was at a coffeeshop—not Starbucks—that was filled with a more cosmopolitan crowd than at Starbucks. Two young writers behind me were talking about writing a novel. One said his had gotten away from him. He didn’t see this as a bad thing. One chapter was at 11,000 words and counting. It sounded to me like endless verbiage. This is the opposite of what he should be doing. The idea is not to sprawl, but compress. Condense, so the narrative becomes as potent as possible. But watch—next week the guy’ll sign a big contract with one of the book giants!

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