Thursday, February 25, 2010

hands as heavy as lead

Don't write a novel. Really. Don't. It's a time sink that will sap your reserves and, about midway through, any self-esteem you may have as an artist or craftsperson. But if you really, really want to write one, despite me telling you what a godforsaken mistake it is, here are some suggestions to make your life easier.

Don't tell anyone you're doing it. This is a big one, because people who know you will ask if they're in it, and assume they are no matter what you tell them. They will also beat down your door with ideas for your novel, none of which will be of any use to you because, I'm assuming, you thought about the project for more than 20 minutes before starting. And that's just people who know you. Trying to impress strangers with this grand literary adventure of yours is pointless because they will assume you're some goony wolfshirt with plans to spread your epic 900-page LOTR re-write to the masses via Lulu.

Don't tell them what it's about. For some reason, people go fish-eyed whenever an aspiring novelist tries to explain their novel to them. It could be the simplest premise in the world. It could be a novelization of The Wedding Singer, and still the response will be "huh...interesting," as if you'd just told them that you'd always thought Bea Arthur was sexy. It's even worse if, say, you told them your novel was set in a university for clowns and mimes, like mine is. I'm probably on some kind of federal registry now.


Don't edit. Seriously, writing a novel is hard enough. It's no good to go back to it a few months after finishing, only to realize that it sucks and then essentially writing it all over again. The best way to write a novel is in the midst of a delirious caffeine bender, one intense enough that your heart explodes the second you finish typing. That way you won't spend another few months beating yourself up, and no one will have the heart to disparage your work because you died.

Instead of writing a novel, do something valuable with your time. Learn to play backgammon. Shoot varmints off the back porch. Eat your own hair. Anything. Just, for the love of everything holy, don't go down this road. Back to work.

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