A Talk Out/Write Out Session: Issues with the Novel

Yesterday’s warm up post felt really good. I ended up writing an hour more than I had planned because I was so focused. I figured I’d give it a try today. 

Since, I’m about to dive back into my thesis work I figured I’d try to write out/talk out some of the obstacles I’ve come across this past week. I don’t mean the challenges of writing at home and dealing a family in crisis. I’m talking about the literal issues with the novel.

First of all, I find myself  kind of bored with my characters. My professor and thesis chair has a philosophy that if you’re not sure what to do with a scene or character or story add a character. My concern with this is that if I add a character here and there the novel is going to go on forever. Though for todays’ section it is vital that I add the character that I’ve created.  While I don’t want this novel to be five hundred pages long, I do want readers to follow these characters for about fifty or sixty years. Also, my professor/thesis chair  constantly enforces the idea that all characters must be employed. I too feel strongly about this, though I don’t really practice it. I am mostly working on banging out the rough draft. I’ll employ all my characters during the revision.

The story centers around three characters who are related. The first character is, for lack of a better word, the protagonist. While the novel does center around this character, the other two characters that follow are important as well. The other two characters are primarily being utilized to reinforce themes and motifs that I feel are vital to the depth of the novel.

The biggest problem I’m having, and have always had as a writer is knowing when to show  moments in scene and when to show them in exposition. While I’m fully aware of the overused, “show not tell” rule when dealing with a large number of years I don’t see how exposition can be avoided.

I also think that I may have over outlined my novel. I’m considering revising my outline since it’s way too detailed and I’ve decided to move away from a good portion of it. I love having a reference document that can keep me focused, but what I’ve noticed is happening is that my writing as turned into a very detailed outline that has scenes.

So maybe my biggest problem isn’t knowing when to show scenes but developing a voice for my narrator. The novel is told in the third person, which is a bit uncomfortable for me since I love writing in the first person.  The thing is, I tried writing the novel in the first person and it didn’t feel right, so I changed it.  I think I need to really think about who is telling the story. Maybe if I understood my narrator at a deeper level I’d be able to give him/her a voice.

Just writing “him/her” is a problem. Shouldn’t I at least know the sex of my narrator? I do know the narrator isn’t in the novel, but an observer.  I haven’t (was going to write can’t but can’t isn’t in my vernacular these days) decided if the narrator lives in the town the novel takes place, or if the narrator is like an all-seeing eye, the way I teach my students the omniscient third person voice looks. The thing is, the narrator is a pinch complicated because while I know the narrator knows everyone’s thoughts and actions, I have chosen for the narrator to only disclose the thoughts of very specific characters, consistently of course.

So that’s that. I feel like I have a stronger handle on the issues that I’ve been battling. I’m about 120 pages in, and I think I have about 200 left to write, maybe even less. I had a girlfriend who also wrote a novel for her thesis, who told me that it’s the first 150 pages that are the worst, once you know where it’s going and how to end it, writing those last 100-200 pages is like rolling downhill. I believe her. She’s given me sound advice the entire time I’ve been in grad school, and is currently enrolled in a prestigious  program for a PhD in Creative Writing.

I will do some steady climbing today. Thanks for listening.


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