Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

More moanin’ n’ groanin’ about the novel


Sometimes it ain’t so easy, pounding out a new novel. As I get older, I can recall earlier times when I didn’t think so much about it; I just pounded. And when you just pound away, pretty soon you discover that you’re sitting on a couple hundred manuscript pages — something you can really work with — and getting to the end isn’t so intimidating.

By now, though, I’ve been through the process so many times (you have no idea!) that facing the void again is almost too much. As one writer or another was quoted a while back (and I paraphrase): “If I have to think up one more batch of characters and put them in ridiculous scenes with pointless dialogue, I’m going to throw up.” And believe me, I get it. I know exactly where she’s coming from.

It’s not just the length of the novel that’s getting to be frustrating, though, it’s the conventions of the novel too. The obsession with scene. The whole “show don’t tell” thing. The faux realism. The rules. And yes, I know, all forms of art have rules, but for some reason the ones governing the novel these days seem especially restrictive. So much so, as a matter of fact, that a lot of literary novels now are actually mysteries or thrillers, using all the conventions of those genres, but gussied up with fancy language and technique. You know. So they might possibly sell a few copies.

I’m thinking of trying something new one of these days. A series. Not a one-character series, or a mythical place series, but a bunch of shorter books — say fifty pages a piece — with a single thematic foundation. Can’t say what the theme is yet, since I’m just starting to develop the idea, but it would permit a wide variety of character types, times, and settings. That’s right: all the loose crap in my “ideas file” that might not otherwise get used.

We’ll see what happens with it.

Meanwhile, anyone out there working on something different? Tell!


13 comments on “More moanin’ n’ groanin’ about the novel

  1. islandeditions
    April 20, 2015

    This wouldn’t be the first time you’ve tossed those reins and made a run in a different direction. I think you should go for it!

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 20, 2015

      It’s the old spaghetti test. Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks!

  2. sknicholls
    April 20, 2015

    If marketing venues and sales platforms didn’t make it so confounded difficult to sell anything but genre fiction I’d just write.

  3. 1WriteWay
    April 20, 2015

    I’m trying to write poetry. Obviously, I no longer care about sales 😉

  4. John W. Howell
    April 20, 2015

    Yeah, I finished the John J. Cannon trilogy and just finished a new book. It is general fiction and is about a guy who becomes an NFL star after college. He starts a fund management company and then goes bust when money from his company account is missing. Someone takes twenty million and makes it look like the protagonist’s computer did it. The SEC accuses him of insider trading and alerts the Justice Department, who go for additional counts of money laundering and fraud. His boyhood chum dies while in college when their car is in an accident with a drunk driver. The chum comes back as a spirit to help his old pal out of the scrape and to get the money stolen in the hack. So I have a main character, a ghost, a twenty-five-year span of the story, a trial, and a third world despot who was behind the heist. Doesn’t sound like genre specific to me.

  5. kingmidget
    April 20, 2015

    I realized over the last year or so that I’m having the same problem. When I first started writing and didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I could just write. Now, that I’m eleven years into this thing I call writing, I’m bogged down by everything that’s in my head about how I should be doing it. Wish I could just my head down.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 20, 2015

      True, and it’s weird that a clearly mental pursuit like writing is best done with the mind turned off — in kind of a trance. Isn’t there some kind of pill we could take?

  6. Phillip McCollum
    April 21, 2015

    Agree with a lot of what you say here. To paraphrase Heinlein, “Of course the game is rigged, but if you don’t play, you can’t win.”

    I’d like to see where your experiment goes! We tend to see sets built around setting and characters, but rarely theme.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 21, 2015

      Yeah, I can’t think of another theme-based series, so maybe I can pioneer a niche!

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This entry was posted on April 20, 2015 by in Writing and tagged , .
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