Hate and Love Lists

I’m an obsessive list maker. The secret with any list, long or short is of course to value the making and not care about the list itself after the making. Best: lose the list.

The novelist in Sanary-sur-Mer: how come he's so relaxed?

The novelist in Sanary-sur-Mer: how come he’s so relaxed?

These are a few things I hate about writing a novel (compared to writing [very] short fiction):

  • Time: There’s too much time available to worry if the story will come out right. If I could only finish it quickly and move on to the next thing!
  • Characters: they proliferate until I’m completely lost in their midst. Only this morning, I woke up from a dream where eight or nine of them visited me in my sleep, knocking, stalking me.
  • Others: everybody and their uncle has a different view on where the story should or shouldn’t go, especially other writers know best and if they’re good writers themselves, it feels wrong not to listen.
  • Speed: after chipping away on the old stone for a few months, it seems as if I’m Theseus in the maze without Ariadne’s thread but also without any chance to meet (and fight) the minotaur.

These are a few things I love about writing a novel (compared to writing [very] short fiction):

  • Time: there’s a lot more time to make it come out right, and worrying has never killed a man. Time is of the essence indeed: take as much of it as you please and need. Learn to breathe slowly and deeply again.
  • Characters: creating more and more characters makes the story look like what it ought to be: a juicy, pulsating slice of life. Characters are family: they bother, they bore at times, but they’re loyal and loveable, even the evil ones.
  • Others: if you can protect the first draft, good on you. But how delightful to break through the solipsism of writing alone and see your friends, and your writer friends, engage with your creation. It feels almost wrong to have fun writing and also get all that attention. Meeting intelligent, caring readers up front is a gift.
  • Speed: the process of slowly working on something large whose size, mood and ending is not entirely known yet is like the discovery of a lost continent. No thread is needed to keep orientation: losing it is partly the point. You don’t jump out of an airplane to get back to Earth fast: you do it to fly. That minotaur: it’s a colorful beetle.

I definitely love it more than I hate it but I love to hate it, too.

Cheerio from Berlin,
Marcus Speh

5 thoughts on “Hate and Love Lists

  1. Your first bullet under bests is one I need to remember. I’m such a type a, always in a hurry, always wanting results (mostly gratification) that I forget that the best things in life come slow (Chicago) and allow myself to indulge in distractions. I need to post that bullet on my wall or something, and acknowledge my addiction to the instant rush of comments, stars, and finishing short things. Enjoy the journey. And now, I am off for a solid hour of revising my nove. Peace…

  2. I always listen to the dream. It isn’t always right. But it’s worth a listen. My love-hates are a big snarled up bunch (I am not a list maker 🙂

  3. Pingback: Trumpets To Twenty Ten | Marcus Speh

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