Thursday, August 23, 2007

Write Your Novel. Now

There’s something about crime fiction that invites participation. Or so it would be seem. What else would explain the healthy number of honest-to-goodness aficionados of this popular genre who also have a novel in the works?

Of course, not everyone who’s ever wanted to write a novel has actually pulled it off. I’m fairly certain I know why this is so: it’s really, really hard work. And never mind the intricate crafting required to pull off the plotting demanded by today’s sophisticated readers. Just the basics can seem very daunting. You get your bum in the chair and then the vastness of your task can engulf you. The world you need to create. The people you need to bring to life. The narrative voice you need to choose and establish. The research you need to do. You not only have to show and not tell, you have to figure out what that means. With all of that in mind, it’s a wonder any first novels get written at all.

And then along comes Walter Mosley with a bright orange--yet elegant--little book called This Year You Write Your Novel. On first contact, you just know that this is a book that’s been written for the ages; for the generations. One of those instant classics confused young writers will be picking up 50 years from now in order to reduce the furrows in their brows. Because Mosley takes that which appears very difficult and reduces it to the point of understanding and simplicity. And because he is Walter Mosley and not Joe Schmo, he does this with a beauty and elegance beyond what is required. Honestly, I could just read This Year You Write Your Novel all day for the lovely way Mosley approaches language and for the truths peppered throughout this little text.
Our social moorings aren’t the only things that restrain our creative impulses. We are also limited by false aesthetics: those notions that we have developed in schools and libraries, and from listening to critics that adhere to some misplaced notion of a literary canon.
But there’s more than beauty here. If you or someone you know wants to write a novel--really wants to write a novel--I’m fairly certain that this book will help them get there. “I don’t promise a masterpiece,” Mosley warns in his introduction, “just a durable first novel of a certain length.” And later in the introduction, he underlines this point. “I can’t promise you worldly success, but I can say that if you follow the path I lay out here, you will experience the personal satisfaction of having written a novel. And from that point, anything is possible.”

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