Monday, June 20, 2011

Upon Attempting to Be a Novelist

All praise to any novelist who takes us out onto thin ice, under which large, dark shapes are discernibly swimming. Michael Cunningham


As a rule it is not a good idea to tell someone a story before you write it. Any comments or feedback will distort your vision before you have committed the words to paper or cyber-storage. About eight months ago I told two good friends and trusted critics the first part of my novel. I had what I thought were all 35,000 words written and I was interested in their reaction to the big reveal that finishes part one. Indeed it was at this point all of my large, dark shapes came into view and I did indeed have my readers out on very thin ice without them even noticing they had been led out onto a lake.

Unfortunately, neither of them liked the dark turn my story takes and I was concerned that the tale was way off track. So I turned back to the pages and began to edit, I could have simply changed the big reveal but I was sure I had it right. Must have been the lead-up twas lacking. After several weeks the 35,000 words had burgeoned to 63,000 and I sent the newly fattened part one out to six readers, including those same two I had verbally told the story. Lo and behold none of them were put off by the big reveal, in fact, the two who had been less than luke warm originally were glowing with their praise.


I pondered this for a few moments and realized I had attempted to condense my well structured dark forms into a two minute verbal summary. Clearly, darkness needs some time to build. I needed those thousands of words to lure my readers out onto the dangerously thin ice and then and only then to reveal the sinister shadows beneath them. 


Lesson learned, I ain't tellin' nobody no stories no more; at least not ones that are going to take hundreds of thousands of words to deliver all the darkness and shadows.

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