47 Sharks, day 12
Right now, I am taking a break from very short stories and blathering about high school to write The Novel. I have to capitalize the word Novel in this case, because it is going to be a masterpiece. My opus. The culmination of every moment I’ve ever spent reading fiction, scratching down ideas in spiral notebooks, building and shaping my imagination. Sure, it’s just about a teenage girl and the crazy stuff that happens to her, and I came up with the idea two weeks ago watching Slender Man videos. But it is going to be nuanced.
Man, I can’t wait until I get this piece of crap finished so I can move on with my life.
I read at least a dozen articles by published novelists—John Scalzi and Joyce Carol Oates leap immediately to mind—where the authors said they wrote several novels before they wrote one that was any good. I’ve thought about that a lot over the years. I used to find the concept very dejecting. Up until a few months ago I hadn’t actually finished more than a few short stories in my entire life, and none of them had much polish. Now, as I follow up a day where I spent 8 hours writing, it feels encouraging. Because I am deep in the throes of First Novel Syndrome.
I have nothing but speculation to support this theory, but I think First Novel Syndrome actually exists, and that it will go away once this novel is done. First Novel Syndrome is something that affects writers while they put together…their first novel. Oh, wow. That’s actually kind of a huge coincidence. I’m surprised I didn’t notice that the name and the circumstance match up so well.
Anyway, FNS is the condition whereby you are writing a novel that you think you will actually finish. The precise effect that goes on in the brain differs from patient to patient, but it looks something like this:
“OH MY GOD I AM ACTUALLY DOING THIS! Wait, is it good enough? It’s probably going to be published because it is so awesome. Is it publishable? Would it be more publishable if the protagonist was more like Neil Patrick Harris? This is the best idea I have ever had. Wait, do I have better ideas? Should I put the girl from my last unfinished novel in here somehow? She was a great character and I don’t want her to go to waste. This has to be perfect. This isn’t perfect. I just had a better idea. Should I stop and write that? OH MAN I AM AWESOME!”
Right now, part of me feels like this is The Novel that I get to write. It has to incorporate every good idea that I have. It has to be fully accessible to a wide audience and yet structurally innovative. It should be fast pace and engaging, but the plot needs to tie together to an elegantly cohesive whole. The characters need to be realistic and lovable, able to stand the test of time for when people are reading this in 50 years. It needs to be scary and hilarious and moving and fun and philosophically both inspiring and subversive.
Another part of me has read those articles by those readers, and is able to calm the hell down. Of course I like what I’m writing. I’m sure John Scalzi liked those four novels he wrote before Old Man’s War that he now considers crap. If we didn’t like our work, we couldn’t continue. But I also know that this might be the first of several bad novels that I write while I learn how to create plots that aren’t basically reworkings of Twelve Monkeys and characters more realistic than Velma from Scooby Doo.
I can always feed it to the sharks.
What I do know is that in 10 years, I am going to write a great novel. Maybe it’ll be my first great novel, and only my friends and a few people on the internet will read it. Maybe it’ll be my third best seller.
For now, I am sufficiently obsessed with the withering man to, with any luck, actually finish it. So excuse me, while I shut the hell up and get writing.