Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The perpetuality of the empty page

I've become fascinated with the development of the novel. I don't mean "the novel as literary form" or anything. I mean the way a novel goes from being a little thing noodling around your head to an actual, you know. Thing. Book-thing.

So far, for me, the process of writing novel is frontloaded with frustration. There's the whole business of coming up with a suitable idea, then churning through that idea to build up characters and places and plotlines that people might actually want to read about. I have lots of ideas, but they're not always things that work for me. I can't tell you how many times I've started a short story, only to give up after a couple thousand words because the narrative just isn't jelling in my head or at the tip of my pen. Perfectly serviceable ideas, nothing about them to indicate that they were to die a slow death. And while you're building up the plot and stuff, there's nothing to indicate that this particular idea is going to jel until you start writing it. Tricky.

And once you've got that bit done, you have to start writing. That's just intimidating. You have a number in your mind, and that number might be a word count or a page count or a number of scenes. Every day you take a little bit away from that number, every time you sit down to write, but the bits that you take away are so small that it's hard to see any kind of actual progress. So, yes, frustration. Lots of it at the beginning.

But now I've gotten to a comfortable place. It's like I'm writing the story as I'm reading it. I know what's happening, I know why it's happening, and I'm interested in the process of it. It feels good. It feels like finally waking up from the nightmare of plot outlines and character sketches and the awkward first pages where nothing seems related and it's all happening in this vacuum, and you've got a story going. And that story is slowly becoming a book. It's hot.

Anyway. Back to radio silence. Just wanted folks to know that it's going well. I'm burning through ink like it was napalm, baby,


At 9:18 AM , Blogger colin said...

Burn! Burn! Burn, you... you novelist!

At 5:36 AM , Blogger José said...

Just curious, so disregard freely. Are you writing with a pen?
I used to be a firm partidary of screen and keyboard writing (technical things, which is much less creative), and still do so. But when I have to pad up a text or just ad-lib madly, nothing like a pencil on the back of the draft sheet. A pen on a virgin paper might have a similar effect.

At 6:19 AM , Blogger Tim Akers said...

Yes, yes I am. A brushed aluminum Lamy Studio, with brown ink. Cocoa. Whatever.

For me, the physicality of pen and paper is almost necessary for the creative process. If I've penned in huge sections of text, but need a tiny bridge to connect them, I might do that on screen, but the majority of writing goes on paper. This means typing it in, which is a built in second draft. It also takes longer, but I'm a patient man.


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