11 August 2009

40 by 40 Update: #7 Finish My First Novel

(Back in May of 2007 I noticed that a bunch of people in the blogosphere had created lists of 101 things to do in 1001 days. I was intrigued by the notion but felt I needed to change the parameters. So I created my 40 by 40 list. 40 things I wanted to do before I turned 40. Well on August 17th I turn 40, and I need to give $10 to charity for every uncompleted item. So it is time to see how I did.)

7. Finish My First Novel - NOT COMPLETED
Running Tally: $20.00 to charity.

Wow, where do I start explaining this one? In some ways I thought I could approach writing a novel the same way I would approach writing a research paper. Make an outline and fill in the spaces between outline points. Easy, novel written. Now don't get me wrong, I had no delusions I was going to produce an enduring work of art. I doubt that it would have contained anything too profound. I would have been happy writing one of those "young" author first novels that is somewhat interesting or amusing with the majority of the small print run ending up in a clearance bin somewhere for $1.99. No lofty aspirations. One wonders why I wanted to write it in the first place. Oprah wasn't going to choose it. It wouldn't buy me a house, or allow me to quit my job. Literary prizes weren't going to be coming my way. Why would I try?

Besides boredom, perhaps my biggest motivation was I felt that I had stories to tell, that someone else may actually be interested in reading. But I also felt like I didn't have enough tricks or talent up my sleeve to waste time on short stories to actually work on writing fiction and getting feedback. I was worried that once I finished a short story or two I wouldn't have anything left in my head to write a novel. All my limited creativity used up with just a few short stories. I know it is ridiculous but that is what I was thinking.

About thirty pages in I began to think that I didn't have enough material for a novel. Could I really just puke words down on a page to fill in between the good bits and hope no one would notice? And then on top of that I thought I would make the protagonist straight, not gay. I didn't want to write a gay book. I thought this might limit my audience. (Get's more ridiculous doesn't it?)

After another 15 pages I lost interest all together. That last word I wrote was in May of 2008. But recently after reading Maeve Brennan's collectiton of short stories The Rose Garden, I began to feel differently about trying my hand a short stories. The idea of writing a short story or two suddenly didn't bother me. Probably because I knew the novel was never going to happen. Why not try and get something meaningful on paper?

So I sat down and wrote my first short story. I'm even ready to share it with a few people. I'm interested to see if there is anything redeeming about the story. Stay tuned.

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