Thursday, March 10, 2011

Novel as Puzzle

I like a lot of things about short stories, as a reader and a writer. One thing I like about writing a short story is that I can write the first draft in one sitting, as long as it's less than 5000 words long. Because a short story is ideally always read in one sitting, it's a nice symmetry, and it helps produce the unified effect.

Novels, though, are written in chunks. Every time I finish or just step away from a long work, it feels in my head like a hodge-podge mess.  This is how I felt about a novel I've been working on for a few months.  26,000 words (about 100 page) in, I felt that I was forcing things. So I stepped away and started working on two other projects, a novella and a novel. I came back to it yesterday.

I was scared. I always am. But I actually ended up liking it, as I almost always do. Yeah, it's rough for sure, but the main thing I feared– that the seams would be visible– isn't the case. It was written in pieces, but they fit together like a puzzle.  Seen from a readers distance, the pieces are almost invisible, and the picture created by the pieces is clear.

I wonder when I'll learn to trust that. Probably never.

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