Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Pigs wallow, so why not amateur authors?

In a sense no one else need read this; it is a memo to myself, celebrating one of those events which is personal, transient and mouselike. If I were delusional I might say I have finished Stall Recovered and it runs to 119,154 words. But I must be pedantic; the only thing that’s complete is the first draft. Much will change. Anglicisms will be drawn like rotten teeth from the mouths of Americans, repetitive phrases I have over-loved will disappear, unnecessary sentences (“He looked at her face.”) – the clues to passing incompetence - will be sighed over and removed, inconsistences shuddered at and replaced, and an inordinate total of italicised French words will diminish.

Why allow these defect to appear in the first place? Evelyn Waugh, the great stylist, wrote his drafts in one go in fountain pen and no tinkering was necessary. But amateur brains are less well organised. In engaging on such a foolhardy project as a novel one twists and untwists many themes while simultaneously visiting the past and the future. Verb tenses hint at the temporal tangle; when you find yourself forced to use “had had” you may need to go back a couple of paras and simplify time.

Why write a novel? Because you have an idea you’d like to test. A character you’re rather in love with. Or because you’re tempted as you might be by woodwork. If you’ve tried to write other novels then there’s the dubious thrill of re-entering an obsessional world which will cause you to avoid household necessities and social obligations. Another justification is boasting. Some people are gently impressed, mainly by the task of putting together such a vast number of words. Quality or meaning are less important.

Have I got the germ of an idea for the next one? asks Mrs BB. No I haven’t. Just let me wallow for a minute or two.


The Crow said...

Huzzah, huzzah! Congratulations, dear BB, on completing Jana's story. I hope she fares well with publishers, when you have revised it to your satisfaction.

Relucent Reader said...

Congratulations, look forward to reading the new novel.
I could never attempt a novel, lacking discipline and know how.
I tinker with blog posts even after they are up, dropping words here and there, correcting grammatical mistakes, and paying the syntax.

Rouchswalwe said...

Jana is someone I would like to get to know. Reading also allows for neglecting social obligations. I'm engaged in the newest Connie Willis novel at present. So I send my hearty congratulations across the Atlantic with a Prost!

Barrett Bonden said...

The Crow: She's changed a bit since you OK'd the Texan dialogue in that scene before she solo-ed. But I suspect you'd get on.

RR: I'm the same. I write my posts in MsW because they're easier to read and because MsW has features (eg, accents) that I need. After which I tinker and tinker. Sometimes I overdo it. I cut out too much and lose the meaning. Dunno whether that's worse that writing too much.

MsW is vital for the huge novel file because of the Search feature.

RW (zS): As with The Crow, I'm sure you'd get on. She speaks terrific French (far better than me). She drinks beer (I felt she had to given the iron-clad links I have with you) but when it comes to food she's a US fast-fooder. Doesn't think the French are any good at this form of cuisine. I like to imagine myself introducing her to you all then stepping back discreetly and letting you all get on with it.

Plutarch said...

There could also be the fear among your friends, relations and closest family, that they may appear in one form or another in the novels you write. Fanny Trollope, Anthony's Mother, a prolific and successful novelist now forgotten, when asked about this problem, countered "Do you see the pig in the sausage?" Forgive me if I have told you this story already.

Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch: Fanny's remark would have been a first-rate put-down. Myself, I don't see any fun in transferring the thoughts, behaviour, instincts and terrors of someone I know to an MS and calling the result a novel. A bit like taking notes and doing an article about an automated warehouse. In any case most of the characters in A Stall Recovered (I'm now favouring the return of the indefinite article) are French and in my experience French and English personalities are immiscible. Where my acquaintances and relations may be immortalised is when I have taken one of their apercus and made it my own. The problem of intellectual property raises its head.

Julia said...

Hip hip hurray!