I've written here a couple of times before about my friend Ann, who died almost three years (impossible!) ago. She worked in resort real estate for her Real Job, but she was also a romance novelist for Harlequin. That fact impressed me terribly, but she said that there were plenty of people who sniffed and acted like it was no big deal. "Oh those," they would say dismissively. "All of them are the same. Anyone can write those." She said she used to be embarrassed to tell people that she wrote romances until she finally decided that, hey, she was a published author and her books were making money. What right did anyone have to make her feel bad about that? So the next time someone gave her that lousy answer, she said, "Oh! Well, which ones have you written? Maybe I've heard of them. Which line for Harlequin did you publish in?" The person was usually unprepared for this response, and even if he or she explained what the original comment meant, Ann felt she drove her point home pretty well. If it was so easy to write a romance novel, then why weren't you doing it?
I've been retired for almost three years. Every so often, I am urged by someone to write a book. I have one person who tells me, "I don't even care what you write about; just write and I'll buy it and read it. I can't wait!" Obviously, that's incredibly nice to hear, but it puts a lot of pressure on me. It's lovely when people ask you when you are going to write a book. It implies that you have a book inside of you, or it says that people enjoy reading your writing, or even that people find you interesting or eloquent or both. And, today's question puts an even finer point on it:
What is the novel inside you?
Oh, hell. I used to tease Ann when she was between romance novels. I'd say, "Here. I'll come up with some titles and let you have them for free. Then I'll even spitball some possible plot ideas." She'd pretend to be enthusiastic and interested. My favourite one was Free Wild Sex Tours, Unlimited. It may or may not have taken place on safari in the Serengeti. I can't really remember.
Like all good English teachers, I have a couple novels/stories already started (in several different word processing formats), but I'm not passionate about them. I don't feel compelled to write them, and to be honest, I don't really care to finish either one. The first one has some very good writing in it. The second one has better characters in it. And I'm lazy. Good writers are disciplined, and I'm anything but.
It's very intimidating to be a reader of classic literature and then aspire to be a writer of books. And I have to admit; my best writing is over at The Brian Williams Tie Report. There is more of my fiction voice there. Here, I am mostly chatting.
As a creative writing teacher, I still believe that honesty in writing, even in fiction and poetry, is critical. I always told my creative writing students that their writing should read as if they tore their guts out and threw them, still steaming, onto the paper. So I think that, on some level, the writing should come from a place of authenticity. (Hence, the old Number One Rule Of Good Writing, write what you know.) There is a lot of stuff I know. I need it to settle out, sift through, distill into one crystalline idea that drives me. I'm not to that point yet, I think.
I love writing. It's my preferred means of communication, always. The refinement, the revision, the polishing are as enjoyable as the original act of creating the document. Choosing words, crafting phrasing, deciding on diction--all of it is like assembling and then conducting an orchestra. I know without hesitation that words are my power.
What is the novel inside me? I don't know. Is there a book inside me? I don't know that either. If there is a book or a novel inside, will it even come out? That's a better question.