Novel Is Labor
5 January 2010
“All being finished means is that you haven’t started yet.” —Aaron Sorkin
I have 335 pages of something. It has characters, setting, plot, thematic ideas, a beginning, middle, and end. Which is to say I am finished; which is to say I haven’t started yet. Novel is labor: it’s not all play, but neither is it all toil.
I haven’t told the story I want to tell, nor in the way it needs to be told. Now the real labor begins. Exhibit A: rough storyboarding, and a character map. I use stickies, because that’s how fluid it needs to be. (Pax is there for good cheer and good luck.)
Notice Don Delillo‘s Underworld in the foreground. Structurally, and in other ways, it’s an influence, and I’m re-studying it. If you’ve read it, or any of Delillo, you know we’re talking about a complex, heady work. I wrote in my journal today: If it’s not complex, and a little impossible, then why write it? Over the years, I’ve sometimes gotten the feedback that I’m “taking on too much.” So I might have written: If it’s not too much, then why write it?
If there was room in the frame, you’d also see that I’m back to hand writing on legal pads.
All being finished means is that you haven’t started yet.