Friday, February 17, 2012
This Year You Write Your Novel (2007)
I picked up Walter Mosley's This Year You Write Your Novel (2007) at the Forest Park Public librbary without knowing who the author is (which makes me feel nearly illiterate) because I assumed that it would have some advice on how to budget time towards writing a novel. Unfortunately – at least for me – Mosley's advice is to write every day, every week, for the whole year. Sure, some of this writing is actually reviewing, revising, and full-on editing, but Mosley wants the aspiring author to put in between 1½ and 3 hours per day on the novel Every single freaking day.. I think that would lead to a fair amount of burn out if it is all dedicated to the same story. On the other hand, one of the major reasons I have this blog is to keep myself in the habit of writing something (usually not fiction, and almost never very time consuming material) on a regular basis, and from that I can attest that writing regularly makes it easier to find the rhythm for a story.
Mosley, however, tends to view the novel as many smaller stories within the larger, connecting story. Since he has been quite successful as an author, I am going to defer to his judgment on the matter. Time spent with the smaller bits informs the bigger structure, and that can always change as the writer moves forward with it. He also discusses the intuitive method (something all of us self-proclaimed smart people think is real writing) versus more structured, planned approaches. How one spends time on the book is going to differ with each, and I'm appreciative for how Mosley covered this.
There is also a small section dedicated to the value of the classroom, both in terms of academic study and writers' workshops. I have long been too [insert one or more of the following: shy, timid, stubborn, arrogant, cowardly] to invite a crowd of people who are also authors (aspiring or published) to have access to my work just so they can point out all of the mistakes I've made. Yes, I like being overly critical of the work other people do, but I don't want that same spotlight shined back on me. But if an author is going to be serious about finding the flaws in his or her writing, then workshops seem to be a great tool. You can find the errors you makes in the works of others (where they are easier to spot) and have others highlight the problems that you never see because you are just too damn close to your own story.
By itself, This Year You Write Your Novel isn't going to be of much help. As a supplement to knowing something about writing and a real desire to finish a story, it can be a great aid. Mosley's acknowledgment that the first draft is going to be terrible (accept it, would-be authors) and that the real work comes from turning the rough story into a readable novel is encouraging. On the other hand, he doesn't have much to say about how to get published other than to make contacts – another reason to workshop – and figure out who is likely to publish your type of material. And then be ready for a steady stream of rejection, one that isn't likely to go once an author has had a few books (or more than twenty) published.