19 November 2007

More Scratchfile

Scratchfile is my word for "the stuff I do when I'm not trying to get something particular accomplished." I don't know if there is a proper, commonly known and used word for this? It means that I'm painting, or drawing, or writing, but not with a predetermined destination in mind. Here are more, it turns out Blogger only allows 5 images in a post.

In other creativity news, I've been writing every day this month on a novel. Well... it's the kernel of a novel. When I meet the goal of 50,000 words, I estimate I'll have about 2/3 of the plot structure for a good novel, 1/2 of the necessary number of characters (I'm really good with main characters, not great with supporting characters), and about 1/5 of the total number of words that would be necessary to eventually massage, edit, and cajole a thing into an actual novel. The plot isn't clear even to me, the characters are still trying to figure themselves out, and overall, I'll be doing the literary world a favor if I kill it at the end of the month. But I committed myself to this task for the Month of November, because of National Novel Writing Month, and because of my tendency to heap scorn on the bad writing that gets published as "literature."

I do not foresee actually having A Novel on my hands by 30th November, as in the thing you see on the cover of actual novels in bookstores: Some Kind of Pretentious or Obscurely Referential Title: A Novel by Me... kind of thing. But I am learning a lot about the novel writing process. If I don't delete it all on December 1st, but instead keep scratching at it in a persistent manner for another 6 months to 2 years, it could conceivably turn into a rough draft of a coherent novel.

I have always wondered why I can write, at length, about whatever comes into my head, but the idea of deliberately writing a novel intimidated me. Short stories aren't a real problem, but for some reason I've always felt that novels would be better, somehow. More complete? More... encompassing? I have always wondered what famous authors mean when they say that they discover what's going on as they write--I'd always imagined it to be a premeditated thing, mostly a matter of copying down a story that was in the head already. Definitely, my appreciation of authors who can work out enormous, long-range plots and worlds has grown immensely. The respect is quadrupled if it turns out that they have worked out a self-consistent imaginary universe in their subconscious and are, in fact, only writing down bits of it at a time, without serious planning.

Surely some writing has that premeditated, start from the end and work your way back to the beginning flavor about it, and I think I expected it to be that way for me because that's how visual art works for me. I see some materials, and realize that if I do this, and this, and that, by the time it's finished, if I've done it all well, I'll have .... the thing that was in my head. With this month's practice of sitting and writing every single morning for at least a little while, I'm beginning to see how the threads of ideas can come and go. I can see how the story changes as it flows. I can see how characters come and go, seemingly of their own volition, and it's just a matter of trying to keep up with their motivations and maneuvers. Also, I can see how authors often end up as depressed cranks, living alone, grumbling at the world to shut the hell up so they can concentrate, already. It might be a chicken and egg issue, but the path has become progressively plainer to me.

And, I can see that if I sat down and wrote every single day for the rest of my life, I *might* come up with a story worth publishing. It has been kind of horrifying to see how much of what I've written is a synthesis or correction-to-my-view of things others have written, and how much what I'm writing reveals about my own inclinations and prejudices. This is not to say that any of what's being revealed is particularly unexpected or news-worthy, because generally I'm pretty wide open about things. But it's so, so clear what my issues, ticks, and obsessions are. So, so transparent. This is probably why it's so popular for authors to work under pseudonyms. Your friends might be happy that you're a published author, but they might not really want to know what your fantasies actually are.

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