Remember how I said that I used my screenplay as a blueprint for my novel? Well, that screenplay was never finished. I first started it in order to enter a contest that I was made aware of as my positionas founder of a screenwriting group on Facebook. The idea of having a real shot at getting noticed by Hollywood was immensely motivating. I had one month to finish it, which was more than enough time. But by the time I got up to page 62, I decided that I had to take my aspirations to write a novel more seriously. I shelved the unfinished screenplay.
Several months later, after much deliberation and procrastination, I started the actual groundwork and began writing my novel. With experience, I found that 2,000 words is about what I can write without working too hard. Beyond that, it takes a bit of discipline and effort. Last night, I wrote two chapters.
So far, 2,000 seems to be the magic number. I can write that many words, and each chapter seems to be averaging around 2,500 words (I had one really long chapter). Using Catcher in the Rye as a rough guide, its 74,000 words is divided into 26 chapters, meaning there is an average of 2046 words per chapter. If I were to model my book on it, I guess my pacing is relatively on track.The more I get into my novel, the more I am seeing the differences between a novel and a screenplay. The screenplay is more like a sprint whereas the novel is a marathon. I’ve always been a sprinter. I never had much stamina. Or patience for that matter. It seems though that the novel is teaching me (or rather, forcing me) to sit down and focus. As Holden Caulfield would probably agree with, anybody can knock out a screenplay in less than a month, but it takes a real writer to finish a real novel. With probably a month and a third of a novel behind me, I imagine that my first draft will be completed by the end of the year. A second draft would probably be ready in another half year (considering that I will have other obligations to tend to), meaning I ought to have a pretty decent manuscript to show VBby nextyear’s holiday season.I’ve become incredibly vigilant with my writing. At the end of each and every chapter (and sometimes even every small scene), I ask myself: what is this showing? Why is it here? What do we learn about the characters? My eighth and ninth chapter has been my best writing so far, and perhaps it’s because the story had gotten beyond the sixty-secondth page of my blueprint. But from here on out, it’s even more important for me to be careful to stay on track.
To do that, I have taken to asking myself yet another immensely important question: Why do we care about Mark (the main character, name subject to change)? There must absolutely be a reason that we care about him, otherwise the reader won’t go forward. My novel is a character study, so I must remind myself to reveal his character in a way that causes the reader to actually give a hoot.
Another unusual strategy I’ve taken to is to review my book as if it were being studied in class. Sure, it’s a little presumptuous, but the way I figure, if you aspire to literary greatness, there’s no better way than to treat your own work as if it were great enough to be studied.
As usual though, I remind myself of these guidelines through and through while keeping in mind that I cannot look back too often, in the interest of actually finishing the damned thing. After nine chapters, I think I’m finally getting the hang of it all. I can’t wait to complete the first draft so I can get to the good stuff: refining it all. Adding literary touches where needed, playing with words and structure…that’s the stuff I really enjoy.
Writing a novel is a deceptively massive undertaking. VB had told me that I should be more than confident enough to go forth with my literary aspirations. Only now, as I approach 30,000 words, have I truly gained that deserved confidence. With any luck (along with my continued hard work and discipline), perhaps my dream of writing the Great American Novel (or perhaps just a Great American Metropolitan City Novel) will come true after all.