Friday, March 25, 2011

A Simple Plan Gone Mad

Innocently enough, I set a goal to write a full length novel as my new year's resolution in 2010.  I love to read, what could be better then writing my own reading material.  Right?  In an effort to be reasonable about my goal, I added the caveat that it did not need to be of publishable quality, only interesting to myself and my family and friends who would - dutifully - lie to me if it wasn't.  It's 2011 and I don't have a novel of any length.

It wasn't for lack of trying.  I tried it on my own and realized I lacked the fortitude and knowledge base to get much past limmerick, let alone a 55,000 word novel.  Undeterred, I resorted to tried-and-true method that lead me to my legal career.  I went to school.  I found a great program at a local University (SMU CAPE Creative Writing Program) and started attending classes.  

I moved past limmerick to flash fiction and then a full 3,000 word short story that I was very proud of.  My wife, dutifully or not, said she was proud of me as well.  I can do this, I thought.  Writing was a lot of fun and a wonderful diversion from my rewarding, but sometimes dull, professional writing assignments (i.e. legal documents). I decided to continue the program on the "Novel Track" and was mentally skipping through fields of tulips on my way to achieving my goal.  This wasn't so hard, I thought. 

Then I took two courses (Story Structure and Plot) that showed me how truly mistaken I was about the difficulty in writing a novel.  I now have a great appreciation for every novel I have ever read.  It seems so simple in theory; I write thousands of words every day at work, I churned out lots of entertaining flash-fiction scenes and a coherent short story without too much trouble.  Not easy, but definitely achievable. 

The problem is that those little pieces are just ingredients in the recipe of a full length novel.  I can no sooner pass a bakery, take a bite of pastry, and then go home and whip up a souffle then I can write a few unrelated scenes and then crank out a 55,000 word, or more, novel.  Like cooking, it takes a lot of preparation and practice before you have anything edible.  You must gather all the information on the different recipes.  You must try the easiest recipe - because deep down you're totally lazy - and have it fail miserably.  You must try the hardest recipe and have that fail miserably, because you were totally unprepared to take on that task and it was just a waste of ingredients.  Then you must try several recipes until you find the one you can handle and make it several times until you have something to inflict on unsuspecting family.  Then you must subject your family to enough taste tests of your "experimental" souffle until they have nightmares of demon dessert spoons chasing them trying to force feed them poison.  After all of that, you will finally have a recipe that is worth trying on someone who won't love you anyway - even if you poison them.  They will eat your hard fought creation and then exclaim, "it's a bid dry and could use some more sugar."

I find myself at the demon dessert spoon stage, on the cusp of recieving reviews from my souffle eaters at a writer's conference I will attend in July to receive crticism on my currently drafted chapters.  The funny thing about the whole experience is that I love it.  It is one of the most painful things I've done, kept going by my stubbornness to not allow this goal to go unfinished.  I will get there, or die trying.

55,000 WORDS OR BUST!!!!

Wish me luck.


  1. WOW, you are awesome and I wish you the best of LUCK! That's so cool.. I have a friend who is in the process of publishing her book, I cannot even imagine what a great goal though.

  2. Yay Josh! Take it from someone who took almost three years to write her first draft: consistency is the key. Write EVERY DAY. I have a wonderful spreadsheet that can help you with that. :) I'll email it to you, with the book log spreadsheet. :)

  3. Thanks to both of you. You are both too kind. Robin, thanks in advance for the spreadsheets. I always feel more organized with a good spreadsheet.