“My first attempt at novel writing began in a ridiculous way…”On December 20, I wrote a blog post for the San Diego Book Review, entitled “Life in Other Worlds.” Check out the excerpt below and let me know what you think!
A fiction writer joins the world they create. Occasionally a friend has suggested an idea for a novel. They tell me their idea and sketch out the plot. So far, my response has been no. The suggested story didn’t lure me into spending hours and hours in their particular world. In Laura Miller’s interview with Donna Tartt (Salon, 2013), the writer stated: “The fun thing about writing a book is that it really is a different life.” Tartt elaborated. saying she wished to live someone else’s life. Exactly.
Familiar with short story writing, what I knew about novels came from reading a lot of them. While laboring, it took time to grasp the novel’s nature. It was not a long short story. A novel had a terrifying amount of room – if a short story was a cottage, a novel was a mansion, a castle. How to start? The time-honored advice told me I must write an outline before beginning the book. An outline didn’t work. Instead, I saw images. Writers start their work in various ways- a setting, a character, active or static images, or with an idea they can’t shake.
A recurring image aroused my curiosity. I picked up paper and pencil and followed the image. When the image opened, it revealed a picture. Sometimes the image constructed a setting, sometimes it shaped a character’s physical being. Often a landscape appeared. An unknown person trudged through dunes wearing the wrong shoes, walked into a desert with nothing but a sketchbook, or rode a sled over snow and ice. The scene enlarged, sled dogs broke loose and ran away, aspen leaves twittered so loud the character felt haunted, sun radiated off the desert sand and burned up the sketch book. The character’s lungs struggled, his chest burned with effort. His body shone with sweat. Close to death…