by Richard Rowell, Write W.A.V.E. Media Staff
Here's a question I've been asked a ton of times: "Why can't you write a novel?" For someone whose dream as a four-year-old was to be a novelist - and a mapmaker, and a pharmacist, and a starship captain - this would be a legitimate question as I have not yet produced a novel. My obvious inability to properly compose a novel is a topic I've pondered many times. In fact, I've written a lot of drafts of pieces trying to answer that very question, but I was never happy with what i wrote on the subject. So yes, this is yet another attempt to try and answer that question, but this time, I actually have the answer.
I can't write a novel because I simply cannot write a novel. I can't do outlines, as I never have, and never will. Of course, there are novelists out there who have never outlined, either. There are novelists out there that basically just write forever, then let their trusted beta readers and editors do the rest of the work. But in my case, I simply change directions in plot too often and character development often meanders and stalls. It's not even a lack of focus. I just lose interest in what I'm writing if I spend too much time on it. That's right. I simply cannot hold focus for fifty thousand plus words. I can't even hold focus for ten thousand words, never mind anymore than that. Is it a weakness? Perhaps, it is. Or perhaps, I'm simply not a novelist.
I'm not saying that I will never, ever write a novel. But it is fair to say that my dream of being a novelist is indefinitely on hold. Truth is, I'm not even good at short stories. Flash fiction is perhaps the only creative future that I have outside of poetry - and poems are definitely a specialty of mine. The thing is, I can't combine my poetry with my stories. I've tried that, and it was a disaster. So basically, my future as a creative writer appears to be relegated to simply flash fiction pieces and poetry. I'm finally feeling content with that.
However, that being said, the truth is that writing a novel takes a ton of energy. For whatever reason, I do not ever want to expend that level of energy on one particular project ever. I feel that my energy needs to be divided more efficiently across a wider breadth of subjects. My brain is always hitting on many different things, so why should I force it to do simply one thing? Yes, I have a tendency to hyper-focus, but this hyper-focus when it comes to trying to write a novel is actually very, very bad. If I have to figure out where to take a story next, it is NOT going to follow the original path. It's going to go bonkers.
The interesting thing is if you give me someone else's story that already exists, I'm actually pretty good at identifying shortcomings and fleshing things out. So it's not that I can't tell a story. It's that the stories I try to tell are evolving so constantly in my mind that everything I write up to a point becomes obsolete. And that is so monumentally frustrating that I cannot begin to tell you how much worthless text I will have to eventually go through and pare down into flash fiction pieces. So, at least, I have a plan of what to do with all my failed stories.
So yes, it is very likely that I will in fact put out a book someday. It will be a collection of short flash fiction stories. Some will share characters. Many won't. But a novel will have to be a collaboration with someone else, because I simply do not have the capacity on my own to keep everything going in one direction or follow any logical plot structure. My brain simply does not operate in that way because real life is not that way. I am far too spontaneous to be forced into any sort of literary conventions. So perhaps one day I'll write a novel that is extremely disorganized and completely wacko. Not saying there isn't anything already out there like that, but since I doubt it will sell, I may as well just post my insane creative scribblings at will.
Have you ever considered writing a novel? Good luck. I think I'll just stick to the greatest hits from my Crazy Idea Bin. That should be good enough for me.
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