It’s hard, writing a novel. There are so many things to take into consideration: the title; the names, physical descriptions, and backstories of the characters; the pace of the story; the plots and subplots; historical accuracy. Yesterday, I wanted one of my heroes to drive a Citroën 2CV—a deux chevaux—but the year was 1942 and the deux chevaux didn’t come into production until 1948 so my man had to drive a Fiat 500 Topolino instead; not nearly as good! And what about sex and violence? Sex and violence sell books and you’ll never get your novel turned into a movie starring Julia Roberts and Ryan Gosling if you don’t have at least a little sex or violence or both! I’m telling you: writing a novel is hard; it’s like being a one-armed juggler without a helmet!
It’s hard, writing a novel. Things keep getting in the way: going to the grocery store, making dinner, changing the laundry, taking out the trash, playing golf. Especially playing golf. Everybody thinks it’s easy writing a novel but it’s not. Life keeps coming at you head on and life isn’t always conducive to the discipline of writing a novel. I should know. I’ve started three and finished none.
It’s hard, writing a novel. People think you can write anywhere, anytime, but you can’t. The light’s not good here; this chair is uncomfortable; it’s too noisy; it’s too quiet. Some people think you can take your laptop to Starbucks so you can write your novel while drinking a no-foam latte, or they figure you can write while you’re on vacation, but is it really a vacation if you have to write while you’re on it? I don’t think so!
I’ve heard people say that writing a novel must be good therapy. I suppose there’s some truth to that because it’s kept me from committing homicide. So far.
Then there’s the question of money. There’s always the question of money. Unless, of course, you happen to be Danielle Steele, John Grisham, David Baldacci, Doctor Seuss, or any one of those other Philistines (not you, Doctor Seuss) who turn out bestsellers like Christmas fudge and make it look like it’s easy to write a novel. Maybe it is for them, but I am an artist. I walk a higher, narrower path.
It’s not easy, writing a novel. You can’t tell your friends what you’re working on because then they want to hear all about your novel but you don’t really want to talk about your novel because after all, you’ve started three and finished none and that’s not a very good track record. I realize these friends are just trying to be helpful and supportive, but let’s face it: writing is not a team sport. It’s the loneliness of the long-distance runner, a solitary pursuit. It’s the stuff of introspection, not Martini Night.
It’s hard, writing a novel. It’s relatively easy writing these Musings—it will be four years next week and I haven’t missed a deadline yet!—but my novel weighs on me like an elephant on my chest which is how people describe a heart attack. A novel is a heart attack, day after day after day.
It’s hard, writing a novel. My wife wants to know what I’m going to do today and I tell her I’m working on my novel and I know what’s she thinking: he’s going to sneak out and play golf or take a nap or watch the next episode of The Crown without me! She wants me to go get some real exercise. I tell her writing a novel is good exercise for my mind and she just stares at my belly.
I’m just saying: it’s hard, writing a novel. Ideas come screaming like a firetruck in the middle of the night when all I want to do is snuggle up next to my sweet baboo, but instead I have to get up quietly in the dark and go downstairs where it’s cold and then stare at my computer screen for an hour or two. I might as well go back to bed but I’ve just downed two cups of coffee while writing an entire paragraph so what’s the use?
Believe me: it’s hard, writing a novel. You try it. On second thought, don’t you dare: the competition is stiff enough as it is.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with a home in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine.
Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.
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