Monday, May 9, 2011

The Novel, Guerrilla Style Part 10: Where are we going? Where have we been? The last reprieve.

As the series winds down, I hope your novel has taken form, and I hope it has been a rewarding process for you. This week, we're going to take a step back. This, if all has gone well is week 14. How has it gone?

Admittedly, in my work and in recent longer works: Sand and Asbestos, and Just Then, the Moment, I did the bulk of my work in the final weeks. It's funny when I claim I can begin and complete a manuscript including 3 drafts in 12 weeks. It's more like this: I can write the first 20,000 words in about nine weeks and the next 30 to 50,000 in the last three. It takes time for an idea to grow and it takes time to develop character and story. This is true. The best way to figure out your mode of work is just by doing it. No amount of planning can amount to the act of just doing it and looking back on it. For those of you out there who have subscribed to The Novel, Guerrilla Style, I never claimed the process would be anything more than a mode of work and work habits. I don't know how many writers, teachers of writing or would be writers agree with me; all it takes is to write a novel is the hours of work to do it. Style guides, even this one, is only as good as your work habits. Years ago, I believed a writer only needed a good dictionary, a pen and a notebook. Those are very tangible tools. Then I thought a writer needed a good place to write, and I meant a physical place like an office or a desk. Then, I figured a library of read books was in order. These are all good things, but they are very secondary. Whatever the compulsion is, a muse or inspiration or sickness, the only thing a writer does is write. The greatest tool? Work ethic and work habit, that's it. Yes, the Watermen fountain pen and the composition notebook or the wordprocesser make the job easier, but the main tool is discipline.

During this last reprieve, our writing exercise for the week is going to be a little different. Take a break from the novel and write about your process. If this novel was your first, begin thinking of this exercise from this one question: do you plan to write another novel? If no, then don't worry about it, it's over. If yes, then you must begin to consider what worked and what didn't. Believe it or not, the next novel will be completely different from this one. The only thing that will be the same is you. You are the creator, the worker, the writer. What was your work ethic? And what was the habit? What was your process? These are the questions you must ask. Consider this exercise the sum of your work.

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