Monday, September 17, 2007

How do you write a novel?

I officially started a new novel today. As soon as I did I realized I didn't really have a clue how to do it. You'd think I would, after all these novels, but every book is so different. So I did a lot of the same things I make my UCLA students do--figure out desire lines, map out the characters, think about what a character wants vs. what a character needs. For me to be attached to a novel, I have to have a killer first chapter, so that when I am slogging through the mire after that chapter, I can't quit because, after all, there's that chapter! There were times with my novels where I hated every word except for the words in the first chapter, and that was the only reason I couldn't hurl pages out the window and myself after them. I have glimmers of life in my characters, and I think I have the heartbeat of the novel--the what if, the thematic twang that gets my own heart beating. But it feels so babybird brand new that it's a little nervewracking.

I also started a new sweater for my son--a knit in the round deal which is so easy and so zen that it's the perfect project while watching videos. You know, I once had a boyfriend who accused me of being boring because he said all I liked to do was read, write, watch way too many films, knit and run around the city. What's wrong with that? Those all seem perfectly wonderful things to me to do. And anyway, he forgot bikeride and cause trouble. Lucky for me, my husband likes to do the same things--except he doesn't knit.

Back to writing. See you later, alligators.


Leora Skolkin-Smith said...

God, I know exactly what you mean, Caroline. I just started a new novel too and you have described perfectly what I feel. I keeo wanting to pin down those basic questions of want/need, desire but it's more like I just feel that pulse and beginning breaths of my characters and don't know too much else right now, so have to tolerate this nebulous state of not quite knowing everything about the book yet. Then I go watch tv movies for hours and make chocolate shakes and get dazed.
I loved this post. It's so perfectly how beginning again feels.

Caroline said...

Leora, I'm in that daze, too. What's scarier is I'm almost afraid to keep pushing on because what if I lose that connection by going deeper?