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?

2 Comments:

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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