samuel x. brase likes to write

Race for the Prize

Posted in novel planning by Sam X. on 28 August 2009

The most unfortunate thing about writing a novel — at least, writing your first novel — is that I have no idea how quality is oscillating, chapter to chapter. But I suppose and hope that doesn’t matter at this point. Quality will be achieved when I spend months slowly editing the manuscript, chiseling and whittling it into a lean chunk of prose.

My novel, which is quickly becoming an actual novel (with luck and a little coffee, it’ll be 200+ pages by this time next week), started out as a meager effort to write something longer than 5000 words. I have started and abandoned many, many novels and screenplays in my short time, and when I began this project I had no reason to believe it would turn out any different. I anticipated getting through 60 pages and then moving back into shorter prose as the idea lost traction, or my energy flagged.

Those things haven’t happened this time around. Maybe months of writing have managed to prepare me for completing something of substance. Maybe I’m finally taking this seriously. All I know is that every day, every day I’m writing or every day I’m taking a break, every single day I feel a deep compulsion to continue, to continue until I am done. A deep-rooted fire to just keep plugging away on this project. At times the writing is slow and hard, and at times the writing is fast and easy. But whenever I stop writing, when I walk away for an hour or two to relax and eat dinner, a knot builds in stomach, a little voice screams in my head, “finish it!”

I suppose this is the feeling most writers feel — most writers who manage to put together a novel. Because while in the past I’ve wanted to write a novel, I’ve never felt like I need to write a novel. I feel that way every day now. A need to write this novel, and more. An inscrutable desire to let my voice be heard or at least recorded. Even if it is never published, even if I never get a publisher to buy any of my work, one day a curious great grandchild can root through my old files and pull out a dusty manuscript that says “EE, by Samuel X. Brase. (c) 2009.” And maybe my work will inspire the creative fire inside them, and they will be hell-bent to complete something of value, personal or otherwise.

Again, I repeat myself: This novel began as a meager effort to write something longer than 20 pages. After a few weeks of planning and thinking, it morphed into a pop-culture experiment: How many subtle or overt references can I shove into my work, how many sources can I pull inspiration from, and create something separate, something unique and yet tied to contemporary culture? A nineteenth century writing philosophy to focus on internal character rumination, a twentieth century approach to symbols and meaning, a twenty-first century taste for pacing and plots. So many strands adding up hopefully to a larger whole, a text that projects forward by looking backwards.

I have a lot of personal hopes for the text; I want it to work as a whole, achieving all the different facets I mentioned in the previous paragraph. I am confident in my ability to execute but realistic as to my experience. Many weeks ago, EE became my longest fiction work, and now it is blazing into the wild unknown. With a bit more than half the novel done, I know I can finish it. I do not know if it will be worth much when done, but either way I will have finished it. And I will know I can finish something of this magnitude. And I will know that if I did it once, I can do it again.

And when I do it again, my writing will almost surely be the better for this experience. The only way to get experience is to do the work. So here I am, doing the work. Logging the hours. Getting the experience. Nothing in my life has been this thrilling, this exciting, this different.

Thank you, Great Recession, for taking my job. For giving me the one resource I needed: time. For demanding I give this a real shot, a real chance, for giving me the time so I would have no excuses but my own shortcomings. So far I am proving that I am up to the task. But we’re only through five innings. We got four more to play.

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