FULL BLEED: COUGHED UP BY THE SEA (3)
So now that I've given away the secret of writing a novel, let's talk about what I didn't give away.
But first, my steps to writing a novel. They're very simple steps. Honest. Anyone can do them.
1) Ruminate on the idea and plot for a couple-three months. Jot out notes.
2) Codify the notes, knowing what to keep and what to throw away.
3) Use the notes to knock out a quick outline/plot. This is just a simple narrative so you don't have to worry about anything like word choice or the perfect metaphor or how one thing reflects another because nobody really cares about that. Yes, it's true.
4) Take your outline/plot and expand it out. In the case of MY DROWNING CHORUS, it was about fifty pages double spaced. Again, you don't have to make it fancy, you have to make it sturdy and keep things in order of the way they happened or the way they're revealed (not the same thing necessarily, but I tend to write super linear plots because I like to save up my Reader Confusion Points for more important things.)
5) Write the book. In my case, I was good for about 3-4 hours of actual writing time a day, five days a week, for three months to get 470 pages, 50 or so of which got just flat cut. Not boiled, but cut. Good bye, do not pass go.
I guess I left a step out there, right? What to write about?
Remember when me and everyone else has said that ideas are common as dirt? An idea and three bucks is enough to get you a drip coffee. Not one of those fancy macchiatos or however they spell 'em. But a regular old big coffee.
The idea is easy. Only the execution matters. The execution is why people fall in like or love with books. I suppose hate even, but I try not to dwell on that. It's all about the voice and how we get to where we get to. Sure, the exciting climax is neat and all and it feels like the whole book builds up to it. That was an idea once. Without the couple hundred pages of prose before and the work before those, ain't a single person in the world is gonna know how neat it is.
The voice matters. Probably more than the plot. Though I'm sure lots of folks will argue with me on that issue. Whatever. 'Cause the voice goes deeper than the plot. It sinks into the characters and the setting and the whole of the world that is being laid out as instructions for you to create something in your head as you read along. Anyways, voice. It's the one thing you can't fake. And while I'm not saying my writing voice is anything other than limited, it is my own.
Voice comes out of experience, of getting bloody noses time and time again and still getting up, of fucking up and maybe learning something the hard way, of receiving pain and maybe inflicting it unthinkingly or with malice. This isn't to lay out a Hemingway trip, because that's manufactured out of pure expectation and press releases. I'm just talking regular, everyday experiences. Going to see bands in tiny clubs where it's clear you don't fucking belong, driving around in the middle of the night and drinking too much coffee, of having your heart broken but it never quite hardens up with all the scar tissue you expect.
I can't tell you what to write about. I can't tell you how to write it. I can give you nuts and bolts.
The nuts and bolts can be valuable, the being told that it's as simple as putting one foot in front of the other, of getting up and doing the work. But the subject of the work? The idea for the work?
There isn't any writing advice in the world that will tell you how to do that. Until then, it's content. Don't get me wrong. There's lots of demand for content in the world. A maddening amount, even. But don't settle for writing content. Dig deeper.
Or not. I really can't tell you what to do, nor do I want to. Just afford me the same respect.