The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Novel Ideas (continued)

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(continued from last week)

Here’s a simple truth about novels:  You should be studying them because they are the culmination of everything you should be doing as a writer.  For the truly great novels, everything is in full evidence–research, characterization, tight editing, complex plot lines, important and socially relevant themes, poetic language…  I can’t come close to naming them all.  Another truth is that they’re a real bitch to write (at least the truly great ones).  And they should be.  We wouldn’t want any old hack cranking one out because that would depreciate the value of what we consider great literature.

As a writer, you should be able to learn a lot by reading any particular “classic” and at least begin to put new tools in your toolbox, or have a mental database about what you saw, when and where, that you can refer back to when you’re thinking about your writing.  This is exactly what happened in my recent reading of The Cider House Rules.  One of the first major things I noticed was Irving’s use of an entirely symbolic scene.  I’m familiar with symbolism and am at least somewhat adept at making it a part of my fiction (I first stumbled upon this a few years ago), but to see a master novelist craft an entirely symbolic scene is something I hadn’t noticed before.  No doubt it was there, I just wasn’t ready to notice it until it struck me when it did (now I see it all over the place in the things I’ve read and especially reread).  So the first thing I started to think about was how to include a symbolic scene in the piece of fiction I’m currently working on.  Don’t know if it will work, but the practice of creating one and using it is more important right now than striking a pitch-perfect note.

So I’m glad I read a novel already this summer because doing so has opened some cognitive closets that it turns out have plenty of things in them.  I have at two other novels loaded onto my Nook, but I may wait a while before I tackle them.  Still, I’m not totally sold on the idea of having to constantly consume novels.  They can be time tyrants, and even the great novelists are allowed to indulge themselves and overinflate their prose (I’m looking at you, Mr. Irving, and the last hundred pages of The Cider House Rules).  I know that I can still learn a lot about the craft of writing through my steady diet of poetry and short fiction and nonfiction, so that’s probably not going to change–and it helps that I’m writing mostly short fiction and nonfiction and poems.  I’ve told others for years now that I don’t have the desire to write a novel.  It’s just not in me.  Now I think I have to add “not yet.”

Written by seeker70

July 10, 2013 at 10:18 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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