Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How to start writing a novel knowing you won't finish it

Let's face it, folks. Girls kept apart, everyone of us once in his life started a book and gave up after writing a few lines or a few chapters... It probably happened between the age of 16 and the age of 26 when you thought you had it in you. That was before you met your current girlfriend, started making babies and selling fax machines for a multinational company.

My objective here is to bring you relief and to give you tips to repeat the experience without the all despairing brain-teaser "I'm a washout" side effect.

First, you're not alone. The Austrian writer Robert Musil died in 1942 of a brain attack before finishing his post-mortem masterpiece Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften. I'm not saying here that dying during the writing process is the perfect solution, but at least it provides you with a very good excuse. And since we speak of Musil, the guy died after writing 1542 pages, which is a real shame. We don't ask you to go that far.

Then, remember that most readers and publishers don't read a book till the end. So what you need here is a completely boring start that requires no follow-up. When the reader gets bored, he will have nothing left to read. He won't feel guilty for giving in and will subsequently recommand your novel to other people. That's a win-win situation, understood?

Last but not least, there's always some feeling of timeless magic about an unfinished piece of art. Shubert's 7th symphony was left unfinished, Stendhal's Lucien Leuwen as well and no one is really sure about the Manneken Pis in Brussels. And these are works of art of formidable proportion.
In our present case, instead of completing 20 works and leaving 1 undone, I suggest you do the total opposite: write a powerful short-story of about 30 pages and leave your other 45 unfinished novels to prosperity.

Feel like giving your opinion on writing? Please help yourself.

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Anonymous said...

I have worked in Austria, reading Robert Musil and selling fax machines but I did not write any novel... Is it normal???

Pierre Alexander said...

No Xavier it's not normal. But as I already told you, YOU are not normal. So in the end everything is normal.

seb said...

only thing i can add is that the girls-part is the one to lay emphasis on. Really, it's their fault.