Saturday, February 28, 2009

Less is More

Two years ago, at the request of my literary agent, I embarked upon a novel with a titillating, marketable title and a wholly improbable yet engaging premise.

For the past two years, the number of computer files bearing the opening chapter for this novel has grown to the double-digits. In some instances, those files have nothing more than the opening paragraph of an opening chapter.

Starting at about the 10th version, the premise of the novel changes dramatically.

By the 17th or so, it reverts back to the original.

For a while, I lied to my agent, enthusing about how well the novel-writing was progressing. I didn't really see these progress reports as utter lies, rather, optimistic forecasts of what was surely to come.

Then came the day when I simply stopped calling her.

After a while, she stopped checking in with me.

It took two years but I have finally admitted to myself that the concentration or constitution required for novel writing is not mine.

And I see this not as an admission of failure or weary waving of a white flag but as a bold statement of self, an assured assertion of what I truly am, at least in the realm of fiction writing.

I am a writer of short stories.

You see, this whole novel-writing undertaking resulted from the feedback my agent and I received after sending out a collection of short stories I had written.

The consensus was that editors liked what they read but wanted to see a novel, not my novella-length stories.

First novels sell, they said.

Short story collections by unknown authors are unlikely to become commercial successes.

As a significant portion of my professional life interfaces with the literary marketplace, I knew this to be true and embraced the advice with a nose-to-the-grindstone, can-do spirit.

I quickly decided on a title and the plot fell into place.

And I was off, writing by the light of the moon.

Oh what a book this would be...urban, witty, satirical, contemporary, allegorical in a way.

Racy, yes, but really a tease of sorts.

The sexy-sounding title was a device; the work was a novel within a novel.

Yes, yes, yes....all was going very well.

And then, the writing process fell apart. Or simply vaporized.


One day there was a novel I was working on.

The very next day, it disappeared.

But of course, it never existed to begin with. It was a phantom, a concept at best.


I like the image of all of those earnest paragraphs rising upward out of the computer files where they are imprisoned, being liberated, reunited with the great global cyber-oneness.

I see those ill-fated words as passengers on an artistic voyage of the damned, denied entry at the port of plausibility, being forced to sail back from whence they came...and there finding a safe haven.

Once that ship docks, it needs to be dismantled.

And then, entirely reconstructed.

For there is another ship that needs to set sail, it will have many compartments; it can be built in spurts and starts or by sustained effort, in daylight or midnight; it will be built to accomodate many lives and locales.

It may not conform to the dimensions of the marketplace but we all know that the marketplace is changing before our eyes...just as the sands of reality are shifting rapidly beneath our feet.

Some of those who patiently read my stories two years ago no longer have jobs.

Some of the publishing companies are nearly vapor.

Sail on, ship of self, vehicle of truest self-expression.

The horizon beckons; adventure is in the air.

No comments: