In 2021 I achieved something I had been wanting to achieve for years. I wrote a novel.
Then I rewrote it.
Then I had it beta read. I had it edited. I had it evaluated.
Then I rewrote it. And again.
… you know how it is.
That novel is now doing the rounds of submissions. Since then I have been working on a short story for a specific competition, and a film script.
And now for my next trick … my second novel.
But why, I thought, should I take it easy on myself? Why not go with a complex idea, requiring create complex thinking, research, innovation, and a fixed timeline?
And that’s exactly what I did.
My new novel, provisionally entitled My heart is broken but the condom’s ok, is set to include an innovative narrative structure derived from the research into the function and form of four specific novels.
The four novels, and the reasons I chose them, are:
- Orlando by Virginia Woolf
This novel breaks so many rules about structure and form. The narrative spans centuries, and genders, with nary a blink of distraction. The main themes of the story are time and self-awareness. It is the focus on time, in a variety of forms, that intrigues me.
How do I include variations of time, or an adulteration of time, in my narrative?
2. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
This novel uses a singular event, an adult slapping a child (not their own) at a bbq, to explore different interpretations of a the event (eg, through the eye of the mother, through the eye of the slapper, through the eye of a witness). This singular event is also the catalyst for many other elements of the characters’ lives to be exposed, judged, and derided.
How do I include multiple perspectives in my novel, which has one main character narrative?
3. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
King juxtaposes the external world, what we all experience, with the internal world of ‘the shining’. Both worlds are real, encompassing a variety of senses and sensations, with real world consequences. The characters move in and out of these worlds at will, and fight for survival in both.
How do I use the internal and external worlds of the main character to enhance the narrative?
4. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This novel inspires me with its physical structure: the text on the page reflects the world of the story. This is a post-apocalypse world (or something similar, it is never disclosed) and McCarthy has used a sparseness in his punctuation and page to reflect this world.
How do I structure the words on the page, the paragraphs and punctuations, to reflect the themes and intent of the narrative?
As or my timeline, I didn’t let myself off the hook there either!
I have allotted 6 months to complete this project. That’s 6 months to get to the first edited stage, not final draft. To commit myself to this task completely, I have taken those 6 months off work (mostly without pay – yikes!).
But wait – there’s more!
5 of the 6 months will be spent travelling around the world! I know!
I’m fortunate to be able to afford this, to have the savings to draw on, and the freedom to travel. My main thinking for this approach, besides escaping Melbourne’s dreary winter, is to remove myself completely from my usual environments; to create a specific focus on my writing.
While I am travelling, I am a writer working on his next novel. I have no other identity to which to answer, no other claims on my time and resources.
Over the next 6 months I will provide updated posts as to my progress, thoughts and discoveries, along with some envy inspiring pics of my travels. I hope my journey can inspire you. Most of all, I hope my public reflections will hold me accountable to my project.
Ok, now to work!