I’m probably a little more than three quarters of the way done with writing my novel. I have some hard questions to tackle. I’ve written 55,000 words so far and know how I am ending the novel. HowI’m going to get there is a little more difficult.
I can take the easy way out, that’s for sure. I could simply plop down some unfolding events and call it a night. But I’m more interested in maximizing the impact of my story’s ending. And so I have been, for the past month and a half, in search of knowledge. That is, I’ve been trying to learn more about the novelist’s craft.
Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems. I have very few models to work with. While all of the most influential books I’ve read so far have been written in the first person, my novel is written in the third. I chose this for various reasons, the primary one of which was due to my desire to be as unobtrusive an author as possible. The first person narrative inevitably gives one a very partial view of things, with very limited scope. It seems odd that I would choose a third person limited omniscient view though, considering that I am writing a character study. My choice lies in my desire to create a particular distance between the reader and Mark (the protagonist).In any case, I had a great many questions when it came to the authorial voice of my novel. Because I don’t have the luxury of going to take classes on writing fiction at Columbia University, and because I am one who very much values the independent mind of a self-made scholar, I decided to search for books that might be helpful to me in my quest to craft a novel.My search led me to find The Rhetoric of Fiction. I purchased it on the cheap on Half.com,andwhenit arrived, I scanned the table of contents and discovered that I had in my hands a goldmine.
The Rhetoric of Fiction, in the right hands, would seem to be almost a manual for would-be writers. I am a staunch proponent of the idea that in order to be truly creative, one must be conscious of one’s craft and have a fairly good understanding of the form, structure, and tradition that came before. The rules can only be broken if they are known, and to know and have a comprehensive comprehension of these rules is important. This book, at least at a cursory glance, should be an extremely informative examination of the novel as a creative form.
And so now I have committed myself to studying this book as though it were being taught in a college class. In fact, I’ve demanded of myself to “go to class” for this: every Tuesday and Thursday – and perhaps even Saturday, should the mood strike me – I made a commitment to spend an hour and a half every morning to study the book. In fact, I have just gotten through the first chapter, and it is entirely comforting to see that my intuitions on the mechanics of a novel were all on point, giving me a boost in confidence that I am on the right track.
Self-study requires quite a lot of discipline. When you are not paying tuition and you do not have an obligation to earn a grade or to be in a classroom at a certain place and time, it is very easy to simply do something else that’s more enjoyable and leisurely. But being one of strong will and discipline, I have faith that I will be able to get through the thirteen chapters of The Rhetoric of Fiction, and especially so because it is my greatest desire to create a meaningful work of literary fiction.