of a would be novelist
Well into my ninth month of retirement, I’m very pregnant with words, but will not give birth to the novel I swore I was going to write. Call me a hopeless would-be fiction writer because, although I have a story in mind, when I attempt to put words to paper (the laptop in reality), I continuously fail to capture what I see in my head, to weave the story worth reading. It all seems contrived, predictable and plain ol’ boring. I think that to be a good writer, you have to deeply believe you have something to say, something missing in me, at least when it comes to fiction. That magical knack to explode what is seemingly normal and every day situations into a mind bending plot with characters you must love or hate with intense passion, a story that keeps you turning the page into the middle of night, is missing.
Writers teach and write about writing, providing guidance to be successful at the craft, sharing tips and techniques. I’ve researched and done all that those folks recommend. For example, as documented in an earlier blog, I publicly committed to delay or reschedule my sailing planning and preparation tasks to write three hours every day.
Determined little dumpling that I am, I tried, but failed at the task. Within two weeks, my writing embarrassed me; I had trouble sitting for long periods of time in isolation with myself (I learned that I am not a fascinating conversationalist); but more importantly, I have more passion about our upcoming sailing adventure than rewriting a novel I drafted over 10 years ago or, even worse, starting from scratch. Planning and preparation tasks give me a sense of accomplishment, a sense of moving forward as I complete them. I should have known–I have little patience with others, so why would I have patience with myself. The process of creating fiction is slow, even when ideas flow fast. Essential creativity takes time and I don’t have the time to bubble it up.
I’ve read quite a bit to see what others have created. This is supposed to stimulate me, the would-be novelist, to expose me to the breadth and depth of language and plot, to inform my own imagination. Since last August, I’ve read 30 books, a variety of genres and styles, from the 1950’s to 2016. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey, but it’s left me, the would-be novelist, overwhelmed by the talents of others, not my own. I liked them all; a few of them I loved. Selection came from browsing our ‘take one, leave one’ building library, snooping in book stores on my own, and recommendations from friends.
I read in paper rather than on-line because I so enjoy the tactile feel of the paper, the format visual of words on paper, and the bookmark that travels with me through the book as I read. Here’s the book list, some are particularly intriguing, most are novels, a few almost non-fiction or biography and one or two, pure non-fiction. If a book did not engage me in the first 20 pages, I took the personally took the bold move to set it aside (a big deal someone like myself who was taught to finish what I start).
- Nose for Justice, Rita Mae Brown
- Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult
- The Crime Writer, Gregg Hurwitz
- Light in the Ruins, Chris Bohjalian
- Thy Neighbor’s Wife, Gay Talese
- The Painter, Peter Heller
- Sailing: A Serious Ocean, John Kretschmer
- Forgetfulness, Ward Just
- Empress Orchid, Anchee Min
- Cyril Connolly, David Prye-Jones
- The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown
- The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd
- Maise Dobbs, Jacqueline Windspear
- The Far Euphrates, Ayrehlev Stollman
- Point of Origin, Patricia Cornwell
- Family Pictures, Jane Green
- Burial Rites, Hannah Kent
- As Long as It’s Fun, Herb McCormick
- Unbroken, Linda Hillenbrand
- Flood, Robert Penn Warren
- The Secret Supper, Carol Goodman
- Father Melancholy’s Daughter, Gail Goodwin
- The Last Detective, Robert Crais
- Oscar Wilde & the Dead Man’s Smile, Gayles Brandreth
- Wildfire, Nelson DeMille
- Publish & Perish, James Hynes
- Next, James Hynes
- Mortal Memory, Thomas H. Cook
I’ll continue to read as I enjoy being engaged in life outside of me. If you have a ‘good read’ suggestion, send it along via comment or email. Once we are living on the water, I’ll return to reading online as it saves space and allows me to make the print larger (old eyes require adjustments).
I do enjoy writing non-fiction, it energizes me, it’s fun and requires creative use of words without the burden of plot. News unravels as I write and I will continue to add entries to RagHaulerJournal, hopefully weekly. By the end, it may all come together in a book. Who knows?