Friday, March 25, 2011

Misery Loves Company: How Despair Helped Write My First Novel.

Writing a novel too daunting for you? Perhaps what you need is a little misery.

In 2005 I went through a relationship break-up that left me reeling. The break-up was the culmination of a lot of stuff besides the break-up itself, so life and misery slammed into me with the force of a brake-less semi on the steep downslope. I went through a few months in which I didn’t write. Then, in an airport, I scribbled some notes; then more. Over a two month period I wrote 10-12 short stories; I was allowing myself to wallow in the pain via words. Writing is often a way I use to work through the chaos of life. After collecting these stories and sending off a copy to the ex-girlfriend, with no expectations besides thinking she would appreciate something about what I was going through--she did not appreciate them at all; my naiveté was in full bloom, oh yes--I sat in front of a computer on September 6, 2005, and said out loud, “I am going to write a novel.” I had no real idea what it would be, but had written notes on a conversation I’d had with a woman named, Sonja, on a plane from Portland, OR, to Oakland, CA. the previous week.

I had no real idea what it would be, but I was ready.

I fully immersed myself in words, the story, adding and subtracting threads, letting the characters run wild, furrowing my brow at their actions, almost deleting a chapter that, in the final version, is essential to the whole outcome. I let the words flow, taking me away from the misery and mental chaos, and after 21 days, I had 58,000 words; 19 days later, a 62,000 word version was completed. It’s gotten tweaked and such since then, of course. But the core of The Corner of his Mind bulldozed into formation over those 40 days and 40 nights; the word flood had ceased, Noah, leaving me exhausted but enlightened. It had shown me something I’d never been able to accomplish before: writing a novel. I’ve written another novel (oddly enough, also about 62,000 words--what’s with that?), and am now working on novel number three.

When times are rough, sometimes words (and love, of course; the love of those who matter in our lives) are what we can use as a life preserver. I know I have, still do, and expect to always.

Because Words Matter!

No, this is not my ex girlfriend, it's Kathy Bates from Misery... ;-)


  1. It doesn't matter where the words come from, as long as they come. By whatever means necessary: that's the true artist's creed.

  2. By whatever means necessary--absolutely, Kate. I think for me, it was simply using a bad time to write the first novel. Now, I don't need that in order to write a novel, but it helped then. ;-)

  3. I didn't even know you had a blog.

    What a sucky internet friend I am! :)

  4. Steve, I just started this thing about a week ago. You are a fine internet friend to have noticed now! ;-)

  5. Way cool. I should have my own wasteland for meaningless blurbing up next week. I'm hoping it compels me to actually get some progress done on me book.

  6. Excellent, Steve. Definitely let me know when you have one up.
    Kind of the same with me, using the blog to feature my own writing endeavors and such, while also featuring some writers I enjoy who are worth the attention. Exposure can't be a bad thing.

  7. I so hope you may experience the joys of writing in a different mood too. And that you may write here in Rome as well. We are reknowned for boosting the creativity in the eternal city. Just ask Shelley!

  8. Haha, Alessandra--you speak the truth. Why do you think Rome and Shelley took shape while I was with you? I know that, even if I get the novel completed in California, it won't be exactly what it needs to be until I get back to Rome and swim in the moods, ambience and more of the Eternal City. Can't wait...well, for more reasons than just my writing. ;-) <3