Tuesday, December 06, 2005

the novel is so long

I went to a lecture at the Antioch Writers Workshop some years ago, and the speaker, Jimmy Chesire, said a true thing: "The thing you have to remember about the novel is that it is long." He made "long" into a long, long word, of some 5 or 6 syllables. And then he repeated it, as you must do with true things. Oh, Jimmy, I have had reason to think on your words many times since then. The novel is oh, so long, especially when you're writing it.
I believe that Ann Beattie wrote her 1st novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter, in something like 3 months. This is the kind of thing I like to torture myself with when I consider my much slower rate of production. Nevertheless, even knowing how much it's possible for me to write, even on a good day, I'm given to making up schedules for myself that start out "If I write 25o0 words a day for so many days, taking off only one day a week, or not even that if things are going well...." and ending up triumphantly, "..."then I could finish my novel by Christmas" or May 1, or Arbor Day.
These schedules are fantasies, dreams of myself as Joyce Carol Oates (another prodigiously prolific writer). When I fall behind the schedule, I remind myself of Flaubert, who would write all night and feel pleased if he had one good sentence, but it doesn't make me any happier.
The novel is long: yes. My novel is 285 pages so far, and nowhere near the end. It's long, but it must be longer. I can't remember how long Jimmy Chesire's excellent novel is--Home Boy, it's called, about a boy who grows up in a home for homeless boys--but it's long enough, which is another difficulty. For how long is long enough?


Blogger Gabriel said...

I'll have to agree, long is looong! So far during my newest attemt to write, I've gotten one-half page down and a story just waiting to burst out of my head like an alien parasite (yuck), so far hand written notes (3)and the one page are all I have. The way I see it you're much closer to the finish line than me...

12/07/2005 11:48 AM  
Blogger lucette said...

You have to look at it this way--you're much closer than someone with no page and no notes. Every sentence counts.

12/07/2005 9:35 PM  

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