When Is A Novel Not A Novel?

Posted: April 3, 2013 in Uncategorized, writing

Greetings from day 3 of Camp Nanowrimo or as I like to call it: “I cheated and started writing two weeks ago but don’t tell anyone, okay?” Couldn’t be helped. I’m a pantser. I can’t waste time writing outlines and filling out character sheets. I literally sat around twiddling my thumbs and imagining the beginning scenes of my story on repeat. And going on Twitter. A lot. In the end, I couldn’t hold out.

I never claimed to have willpower.

(And before you cry foul, I’m not counting the 15k I wrote last month in my Camp word count. I started at zero like everybody else.)

Anyway, the thing is I’ve been working on this story for two weeks now but something strange has happened. #1) I have no idea what genre it is. No big deal. But more importantly is #2) I have this odd feeling that I’m not actually writing a novel.

Let me explain.

I started this story as something of a challenge. I can’t write high fantasy. I’ve tried and I’ve failed and I’m okay with that. But a friend of mine (you know who you are. O__o) dared me to write high fantasy for Camp and I accepted. I’ve been watching a lot of Merlin lately. I should’ve been all set, right? Wrong. I tried picturing quaint little villages and epic quests—maybe a dragon or two—but it felt like a parody. Maybe I’m too cynical for high fantasy. I don’t know. Either way, I’ve taken a hard left and now I’m wandering in the forest of “It’s a Victorian/western/fantasy/romance… or something.” My lack of definable genre doesn’t bother me much. I know where things go when I’m writing and that’s all that matters for now.

The bigger question mark for me is: why doesn’t this novel FEEL like a novel? I have nearly 20,000 words written and a vague direction for my plot which is as much as I’ve ever had when writing. It’s a novel. There’s no doubt about it, it’s a novel. But when I think about the future of my story, the potential editing, I never think “Gee, I can’t wait for people to read this. I can’t wait to submit it.” My endgame has always been to get published, preferably repeatedly, so this is very odd. I like my story. I’m pleased with where it’s going and my characters are already endearing themselves to me. But still the feeling of “I’m writing a novel” continues to elude me.

It’s a strange position to be in.

Why does this feel so much different than my other novels? Is it the setting? The genre change? Camp? (No, it can’t be Camp. I’ve done Nano for years and never felt like this before.) I wish I had an answer but I won’t look a gift story in the mouth—so to speak—because as long as this thing stays classified as “not-novel” in my head I feel less pressure to make it perfect. I’m not agonizing over the editing it will need later. I’m not worried about readers liking Sef (which is good because he’s kind of an ass.) Anything goes.

Sudden random changes in POV in the middle of a scene? Sure!

Characters acting out of character? Bring it on.

Convenient plot devices? Why not?

40,000 more words down the line I’ll probably be flailing over the fact that I never figured out Sef’s hair color and wondering how I could ever have felt like this wasn’t a novel. But before “novel” replaces “not-novel” I plan to enjoy it. And to try adding in that random ostrich someone suggested. I think I can make it work.

But who knows? Maybe I’m the only reader Sef and Taisce will ever see. And for once that’s okay too.

  1. Leigh says:

    I can identify so much with what you’re feeling. I’ve always wanted to write, but I never really knew what to write. So I journaled a lot and read a lot, filing away writing in the one of those days files. Last year, I finally felt inspired to give it a go. I had a couple of projects started, but one night I decided to write down a dream I’d had a couple of years ago. I tried to imagine what would happen next, and it actually wasn’t that bad. When I think of others reading it, I find myself censoring. So I’m just letting go, having fun. It’s just for me anyway. Right? If I’m fortunate enough to have others read it, that’s okay too. Happy writing!

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