I’m terrible with names, but I remember clever comments, even if not always verbatim. I had to look this one up: author Jonathan Carroll likened a short story to a sprint and a novel to a marathon.
Although it can take a long time to write some short stories, it’s possible to complete one in a day, or even in an hour if it’s “flash fiction.” Novels are a very different matter. Planning and writing a work of that length and complexity chews up a great deal of time. I need eight to twelve months to finish the first draft of a novel.
Minimum. Sometimes it takes much longer. Life can get in the way. Other projects can get in the way. The dreaded writer’s block can get in the way. So you can imagine the thrill of crossing the finish line by typing the words, “The End.”
I did so a couple of days ago with my SF/humor novel, Space Operatic. This marathon was longer than usual; it took about three years. I had a lot of fun writing it, but time and again I had to shove it onto the back burner, while at other times it simply stalled. But now it’s done!
Done being, of course, a relative term. After a brief hiatus to gain some distance from it, I’ll launch into the revision work, and after a two or four passes through it will land in the hands of my editor-wife. More revisions will follow. Eventually it will be ready to send out into the world.
This one we probably won’t publish under our own imprint (Serpent Cliff). I don’t think it fits with our publishing program. Instead, I’ll probably look for an agent to represent it.
That could be a whole ‘nother marathon . . .
For awhile, I was making good progress on True Death, the sequel to The Fibonacci Murders. A number of interesting characters had turned up, and the story was moving forward rather well. Then it happened.
I wrote myself into a corner.
The work stalled while I tried to figure out how I was going to extricate myself and my characters from an untenable position. The problem, put in such a way as to avoid giving away the story, was that a couple of characters who represented vital links in the chain needed to resolve the main plot couldn’t reasonably play a role in the resolution.
The problem is bound up with my method of writing. I like to describe that method in archery terms. Archers have at their disposal several methods of aiming. One involves visual alignment, another involves the use of devices known as bow sights. One is referred to as the instinct method: the archer basically has a “feel” for how the bow must be held in order to hit the center of the target. That was my method. I was (once upon a time) fairly good at it.
I approach writing in much the same way. I don’t typically plan out a story in great detail. I have a general idea of where I’m going and how to get there, but the characters often surprise me. Normally, it works out well. This time, it rather didn’t.
I’d like to report that I’m finally out of the corner. Over the past couple of days, things started moving again and it looked for a time like I was on my way again. But today, reviewing what I’d written, I decided I just didn’t like it. That path out of the corner hadn’t worked.
So I guess tomorrow I get to start over. Somewhere, there is a way out. I just have to find it.